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Area agencies see little differences in GBI report turnarounds

Increased funding cuts crime lab backlog by more than 55 percent

POSTED: July 18, 2013 11:51 p.m.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation boasted a reduction in backlogged casework, although local agencies reported they haven’t seen much difference in turnaround times.

“I have checked with the (respective) divisions within the police department and we have not been affected,” Gainesville police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook said. “It may be that we have not had any cases on backlog. Additionally, we are a department that is able to do a lot in-house.”

GBI sent out a news release on July 10 stating that with increased funding from the state, the backlog at its Crime Lab of reports incomplete after 30 days had been reduced by more than 55 percent.

“We were able to retain scientists who had been hired and trained. We had been losing scientists because they could go other places and get higher-paying jobs doing the same thing, but because of that funding we were able to retain the scientists,” GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said.

At the end of June, only 3,041 reports were older than 30 days compared to 6,931 at the end of October 2012, the release stated.

Oakwood Police Chief Randall Moon concurred with Holbrook, saying his department hasn’t seen a change in turnaround on blood-alcohol testing, the department’s most common GBI request.

“One of the things we use are blood tests for alcohol, for DUIs, and those are still right around a month or two for returns. I haven’t noticed them speeding up at all. That’s the most common thing that all of us use them for,” he said. “You can use them for fingerprinting and gun patterns and blood pattern analysis, but thank God, none of us have that many homicides, so we don’t have to call on them.”

“We’re like Gainesville — we do most of our crime scene and investigation stuff, so we don’t call on them any more than we absolutely have to. And a lot of that is because (you) have to wait so long, so you do it yourself, so I don’t know if the turnaround has increased in those areas or not,” he added.

Lang said GBI sets casework priorities by the order requests are submitted, among other factors.

“It’s first-come first-serve, unless they’re prioritized for some reason — for some extenuating circumstances. Like if the DA calls in and they say, ‘Look, somebody’s filed for a speedy trial and I’ve got to have this,’ we’ll move that up; or if it’s a really high-profile case and we really (need) the DNA done so we can move forward in the investigation, then we’ll prioritize that; if it involves a missing child, we prioritize that. It’s kind of common sense in terms of prioritizing,” she said.

Lang said GBI had gotten “positive comments from prosecutors and some of the locals” about the increased turnaround, and that the agency works every legislative session on securing funding.

“The earlier we get a report, the better, especially as ‘weight-based’ drug charges become more prevalent in our caseloads,” District Attorney Lee Darragh said. “The sooner we get results, the faster we can get appropriate dispositions. Of course, drug testing is not all the crime lab does. With DNA, physical matching and other types of service, greater speed will provide quicker justice.”


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