Most people will never directly be the victim of a violent crime. Many more will be the victim of property crimes. Due to prioritization, and backlogs in government crime labs, police department should follow Ft. Lauderdale PD’s lead — send property crime evidence to private labs.
Quicker turn around will lead to quicker arrests, and less victims. Property time criminals also tend to graduate up to more violent crimes, such as being caught in the act or a break-in and the sometimes violent interaction with the property owner.
Given a chance, private labs can provide equally (if not higher) quality forensic services, with shorter turn around times, and without any institutional bias.
When a burglar recently broke into a church, police officers used blood discovered at the scene to identify a suspect and make an arrest.
It’s something television viewers see frequently on cop shows like “CSI: Miami.” But in Fort Lauderdale, police seldom use DNA evidence to solve break-ins such as the one at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
That could soon change to help hundreds of residents whose homes and cars are broken into each month and whose jewelry, money and valuables are stolen.
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Fort Lauderdale police commanders are convinced they can make a major dent in property crime by collecting and testing DNA evidence. But they say they’ve been stymied by lengthy delays at Broward Sheriff’s Office crime lab. They want to farm out work to private companies instead.
“BSO just doesn’t have the resources, and we want a much quicker response so we can make arrests and close cases,” Police Chief Frank Adderley said. “We have a lab at BSO that has done a great job over the years, but it cannot support all the needs of all the municipalities in Broward County.”
BSO’s crime lab has been the subject of intense debate as part of county budget cuts over the past two years. Some county leaders have wanted to shift much of its cost to cities even though cities argue their residents already pay for the lab through their county taxes.
Fort Lauderdale police officials said their discussion of hiring private labs has nothing to do with that controversy. They said they are following a national trend in how to combat property crime and believe other cities may piggyback on their plans once under way.
Fort Lauderdale’s Police Department now sends evidence in only a handful of nonviolent cases to the BSO crime lab for DNA testing because police officials say it often take nine months or longer to receive the results.
The private lab that analyzed the evidence in the church break-in had the work completed in a couple days. Based on those results, officers arrested George Albert Horn six days after the crime occurred.
The Sheriff’s Office disputes the length of delays described by the Police Department, but acknowledges that it must prioritize murders and rapes over thefts. The crime lab handles about 700 DNA cases a year sent in by law enforcement agencies throughout the county, but is also responsible for other forensic testing including analysis of firearms, drugs and latent prints.
Read more on the Sun-Sentinal.com.
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