Crime lab to get two new robots

Technicians at the Verdugo Regional Crime Laboratory will soon be able to work more efficiently during DNA extractions thanks to two robots the lab is going to purchase.

The City Council Tuesday approved use of a DNA backlog grant from the National Institute of Justice to pay for a DNA extraction robot and an automated liquid-handling robot, bringing the total number of robots at the lab to four.

The lab had one robot when it opened in 2012 and it purchased another one with grant money in July.

The new equipment “takes the potential for human error out of the process” and cuts the time to process DNA evidence, said Glendale police Deputy Chief Carl Povilaitis.

“If we had to do this by a manual extraction process, we’d be looking at eight to 10 hours of work,” he said.

Using the robots to process DNA evidence reduces a lab technician’s workload to an hour and half per extraction, Povilaitis added.

Now that the lab has been accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors and the Laboratory Accreditation Board, technicians can test DNA, computer forensic and ballistic evidence, identify body fluids, and process latent prints and crime scenes.

Also, having a local accredited lab will allow forensic investigators to process crime scene evidence from Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena faster, authorities have said.

Before the robots can be used for investigations, police must make sure that evidence processed by them can hold up in court.

“Any piece of equipment we put into the laboratory, in order to have it [be] valid in court and to have that evidence be admissible, has to be validated,” Povilaitis said.

In 2009, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) procured $1.5 million to launch the lab so it could provide assistance with local police investigations and reduce a DNA-testing backlog in violent and property crimes.

Before establishing the crime lab, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department processed most DNA evidence for law enforcement agencies in the region, which led to a large forensic backlog, especially for property crimes.

Glendale police said detectives had to wait a year for DNA samples to be processed in some homicide cases.


Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.


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