Sheriff aims to expand crime lab

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Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr is looking to expand his crime lab to improve case turnover rates and help alleviate future costs of crime analysis.

Darr said during an Oct. 17 presentation to the county commissioners the four additional labs, including individual rooms for tool marks and ballistics investigations and two more for DNA extraction and amplification, would help allay future costs amid looming state budget crunches.

He proposed two budget figures — to build out the crime lab and create four individual labs is estimated that would cost the county about $130,000 and a figure that includes the build out plus DNA equipment for two of the labs, supplies and two new specialists at about $750,000.

Darr said one of the two options will be his second highest priority line item in his department’s 2013 budget.

Sgt. Shane Heiter, a crime lab supervisor, said the crime lab currently sends tool marks and ballistics evidence to the Colorado Bureau Investigation for testing — a process that usually takes up to six months to a year before results are returned.

The state agency rarely charged the county for its services, but Darr said that may be changing.

“The state doesn’t have any money, and it has been getting tighter over the years, and the question is, `How long can we continue to send our items for testing down there without being charged,’” Darr said. “I can tell you a few years ago that I would as the CBI director that question and he would say, `Oh, don’t worry about it,’ but that hasn’t been the answer in recent days. The answer more recently has been, `I don’t think there will be any charges, but we have to wait and see what the annual budget looks like,’ so it tells us that there are issues.”

Heiter said the need is becoming increasingly important as the crime lab struggles to shuffle multiple cases between three main rooms serving as a drug laboratory, fingerprint lab and photography room.

“This will save the citizens, insurance companies and the sheriff’s department money, because we’re going to be able to put these people away,” Heiter said. “The payback is really for the citizens, because they would be paying for a service and we can give them that service and save them money in the long run.”

Darr said both Denver and Jefferson counties are making plans to begin constructing their own crime labs, but noted that his office has an unusual advantage, since it already has the infrastructure in place to expand.

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