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May 23, 2007 - 2:34 pm

It appears that Texas residents a href=”http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1623538,00.html”are upset about the prospect of a body farm /apopping up in their backyards (Hat tip: Michael W.):br /br /blockquoteThe CSI TV shows are among the most watched in the world. But forensic science is hitting a little close to home for some Texas property owners, who oppose plans for a nearby “body farm,” where decomposing bodies will be studied in the wild. br /br /In this real-life episode of emCSI/em: Nimby— not in my backyard — residents of a rural area near the San Marcos Airport, 30 miles south of Austin, have objected to plans by Texas State University to build a 17-acre body farm nearby. With three acres designated for research and surrounded by a wide fenced boundary, plus cages over the exposed bodies, university officials assured residents there would no problems….br /br /The first facility at the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Facility, was opened on a three-acre site in Knoxville in 1971 by noted anthropologist William Bass. Prolific crime writer Patricia Cornwell popularly dubbed it a “body farm” in her novel of the same name. Bass himself has co-written a series of best-selling novels set on the farm; the first, a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060759828?ie=UTF8tag=wwwviolentkicomlinkCode=as2camp=1789creative=9325creativeASIN=0060759828″emCarved in Bone/em,/aimg src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=wwwviolentkicoml=as2o=1a=0060759828″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”" style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” / was described as “southern-fried forensics” by Kirkus Reviews….br /br /Jason Byrd, a well-known forensic entomologist, says that body farms are becoming more important as stranger-on-stranger crime is on the increase. In cases where the victim is related to the murderer by family, financial or social bonds, police often use these connections to help solve cases. “Now there are more random acts of violence and we have less and less avenues to turn to,” says Byrd. Body farms cannot be set up to mimic every kind of environment, of course, but already they have given southern criminologists vital research — for example, bodies decompose in Florida in three days, compared with 30 days in the mountains of Tennessee. /blockquotebr /br /I find it troubling that body farms are “springing up all over” as a result of stranger-on-stranger crime becoming more prevalent. “Current statistics show that a href=”http://www.emergency.com/chgomrdr.htm”only 45 percent of murder victims actually knew /atheir killers. During the 1960′s, 71 percent of murder victims knew who their killers were.” Perhaps this increase in stranger killings is why people feel more fearful of being the victim of a random violent act now more than ever before and why shows like emCSI/em are so popular. It is harder to find an unknown killer and advanced forensics can make the difference in whether or not the killer is caught. So CSI may act as a therapeutic measure for some people albeit a false one since many times, CSI has advanced techniques that the police and experts are not equipped to carry out. br /br /We recently interviewed Bill Bass–the forensic anthropologist for a a href=”http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2007/01/podcast-on-forensic-science.html”podcast that you can check out here /aif you want to know more about forensic anthropology and the work being done at the Body Farm.

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