Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack said he would like city officials to move quicker on developing a regional crime lab and treat DNA testing as a priority.
"I think it's time for the city to take its head out of its holster and understand the horrible problem that is present in the city and for that matter in the region when it comes to having the ability to quickly process evidence such as rape kits that, at this time, the city at times takes years to process," he said. "Victims of crimes deserve more than the city is willing to offer."
Voters already approved bonds to construct a new lab, reports the Chronicle: "In 2007, Harris County voters approved $80 million in bond funds for the building of a new forensics facility, allowing officials to begin developing plans to expand the institute, formerly the medical examiner's office." However, the county anticipates having sufficient facilities by next year to handle all of HPD's DNA testing. Until then, the pilot would start small, but the aim would be consolidating DNA testing in the Harris County lab down the line:
See related Grits posts:Harris County officials are forging ahead with plans for a regional crime laboratory beginning with a pilot program that would allow their lab to take on some of the Houston Police Department's DNA testing.
Under the proposed pilot program, which is set to go for approval before Commissioner's Court on Tuesday morning, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences would receive, process and report on HPD sexual assault cases requiring DNA testing. The caseload would be limited to 25 cases for every two months of the program's duration.
Unlike the HPD crime lab, which has thousands of sexual assault cases awaiting testing, the county lab has no backlog, according to officials. If the program succeeds, it could spur steps to allow the county to take on all of HPD's DNA testing needs.
"The integration of the city's DNA caseload with ours will be the first step, a first building block for future incremental expansion," the institute's Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Luis Sanchez said in a prepared statement.
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