Timothy Shalhoob, a retired Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department sergeant, has seen his share of crime scenes in his 30-year career.
So when he was asked to help direct classes of UNLV students investigate a simulated crime scene and understand the chaos that may ensue, he knew it was an opportunity for him to pass on his knowledge.
“It takes a community’s involvement to support the university in educating their students,” Shalhoob said. “Experienced subject matter experts allow students to fail and then redirect them and let them come up with solutions to succeed.”
Dubbed “Urban Adventure,” the course was redesigned to debut this spring semester. The Greenspun College of Urban Affairs prompted students to think about the class in a new way. Students were asked to investigate the links between three crime scenes set up around the college and to examine the social issues connected to the crimes.
Along the way, faculty, staff, and community experts in social work, media, public relations, police work, law, communication, and leadership guided the students. Nearly 50 people have been involved in the course, from development of content to assisting students on-site to the actors and makeup professionals who’ve brought the scenarios to life.
“On a scale of one to 10, it’s a 10. I’ve never seen a scene recreated like this in any other place in law enforcement in 32 years,” Shalhoob said. “This exercise would stump young policemen with five years of experience.”
Michele Fuller-Hallauer, manager at Clark County Social Services and the county’s continuum of care coordinator, offered students her technical expertise in understanding homelessness issues in an online lecture. One of the crime scenes students explored centered on a shooting involving a victim who appeared to be homeless.
Fuller-Hallauer hoped to offer a window into a societal issue that most students in the course likely haven’t experienced firsthand. Her presentation asks students to visualize themselves in the shoes of a homeless individual: What would they do if their safety plan fell through?
“Whether you’re a first responder or a journalist or whatever your future role is in the community, even just this one course will help folks have a different view of persons who are experiencing homelessness,” Fuller-Hallauer said. “It broadens the worldview of the person who is going through the course.”
Retired detective-sergeant Jim Young, a 29-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, worked alongside retired police department senior crime analyst Daniel Holstein to develop the scenarios students are exploring this spring.
Young said he witnessed firsthand the positive results of a shift from classroom-intensive training to more hands-on instruction during his time in the police department.
“I had the real-world experience to incorporate the training into the instructional component,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is balance the realism of the environment with the instructional result.”
However, the course is not simply a mystery crime game.
“I really love the idea of students from different disciplines having a cross-section of education,” Fuller-Hallauer said. “I think it helps us to broaden the way we respond and react to other people and to a situation as a whole. It really makes us better citizens.”