Regional crime lab prepares for evidence

A new long-awaited regional crime laboratory could begin processing vital ballistic analysis and DNA evidence for hundreds of unsolved property crimes as early as May, police said Thursday.

Local police and city officials on Thursday introduced the Verdugo Regional Crime Laboratory that authorities said will allow quicker processing of crime scene evidence in Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena.

“We could use DNA early on to intercede as rapidly as possible,” Glendale Police Ron De Pompa said at the news conference. “The sooner we intercede, the sooner we identify the culpable suspects, the sooner we break that crime cycle.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) secured $1.5 million in 2009 to establish the lab and relieve a DNA-testing backlog in violent and property crimes, in addition to Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena police investigations.

“The growth of a regional lab like this helps to empower the people in these communities to make sure that people who are victimized here don’t go without redress,” Schiff said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department processes most DNA evidence for at least 88 law enforcement agencies in the region, with the burden causing a large forensic backlog.

Police said the sheriff's department lab only processed DNA samples connected to major violent crimes in Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, leaving a backlog for property crimes.

In some homicide cases, police have said Glendale detectives waited a year for DNA samples to be processed.

Soon after receiving funding, Glendale police commanders drew up plans to reconstruct the department’s existing forensic photo lab into a full-scale DNA-processing operation.

The lab will specialize in computer forensics, crime scenes, latent prints, examine DNA evidence for violent and property crimes and analyze ballistics through a partnership with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In some cases, vital DNA analysis could be turned around in 72 hours, officials said.

The lab still needs to be certified by the FBI and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

The accreditation process will take about a month before the lab can begin examining evidence in May, De Pompa said.

Grant funding paid for DNA-processing equipment, including a $55,000 DNA extraction robot, a $175,000 genetic analyzer, computers, lab supplies, and water purification and temperature monitoring systems.

Police officials said they will also significantly cut costs for processing DNA that would have been normally sent to private labs.

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