Crime Lab Closure To create Case Delays

The Conroe Courier reports that the SHSU Regional Crime Lab in the Woodlands will close in September:
The landlord of a building that houses the crime lab testing evidence for Montgomery County law enforcement has found a new tenant, leaving the highly regarded lab with no place to go. The loss of the Sam Houston State University Regional Crime Lab, which opened in November 2010 in The Woodlands, will mean significant delays for results in testing evidence such as blood-alcohol and toxicology tests, said Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam, chief of the Vehicular Crimes Division for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

The crime lab will lose its current home in September because the landlord has found another tenant, said Dr. Vincent Webb, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at SHSU in Huntsville and director of the university’s Criminal Justice Center. “We don’t have a place to go,” Webb said. “We’re looking to move, but we can’t find anything in The Woodlands. We went there in the first place because there was a lab (in the leased building). So, the capital costs (to equip a lab) are beyond our means.”

Purchasing the necessary equipment and configuring a space to hold it would cost between $3 million and $4 million dollars, Webb said.  “We thought we would be in there several more years,” he said.

With the loss of the SHSU crime lab – which serves more than 70 agencies – Montgomery County now will have to send tests to a Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Crime Lab in Austin, which serves many more clients, Diepraam said.

“With the Regional Crime Lab, we got results in a week or two,” he said. “Unfortunately, the DPS lab has a backlog of cases. For drug toxicology tests, it could take six to nine months to get results. That’s a concern to the district attorney that we’ll have people staying in jail while we’re waiting on results.”

From November 2010 to October 2011, the Regional Crime Lab ran 1,034 drug toxicology tests, with 900 of those from Montgomery County, Diepraam previously said. During that same time period, the lab analyzed 4,335 controlled substance evidence items, with 86 percent of them coming from Montgomery County, according to a casework overview by the lab.

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