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New crime lab aids Gainesville police
Investigators used to work out of a single-car garage
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Lead investigator Dan Schrader demonstrates dusting for fingerprints Wednesday afternoon inside the Gainesville Police Department’s crime lab.

Tucked away on the ground floor of the Gainesville Public Safety Complex is a room essential to putting criminals behind bars.

The Gainesville Police Department's crime lab may not be a scene out of CBS' "CSI" series, but in the few months it's been open, it's making work easier for investigators.

Previously, lead investigator in the crime lab, Dan Schrader, and his team worked out of what was essentially a tiny garage, providing little space for investigations and little air flow.

"The previous lab we had was a single-car garage, so having climate control is a big bonus," Schrader said.

A key feature of the lab is the "fume hood," which can be essential to discovering fingerprints. The nearly 6-foot piece of equipment allows investigators to use various techniques to discover those prints without the room filling with fumes and black powder, another technique to find prints.

"We can turn on the vent and it creates suctions with a big fan in the ceiling and it basically just sucks everything up to the roof," Schrader said. "So we can keep the room filtered and clean so we don't get powdered because this room would turn black within a year."

Another feature Schrader said has brought the most relief is the AFIX Tracker, a database of fingerprints. Once investigators pull a print from a crime scene, they can then look it up on the AFIX machine to hopefully match it to a print in the database.

The department has also recently acquired an Alternate Light Source kit that has helped Schrader and his team investigate crime scenes more effectively. The set consists of handheld light sources that can detect finger prints, fibers and bodily fluids.

While Schrader said his team could still effectively complete its job without the
advanced laboratory, the new equipment makes life a lot easier.

"The process doesn't change, the environment we can do it in is more comfortable and more conducive to having somebody enjoy their work a little bit more rather than sitting out in a 120-degree garage," Schrader said.

Investigators still spend much of their time outside of the laboratory investigating crime scenes and collecting and preserving evidence. That evidence, however, is often brought to the lab for further analysis.

"The amount of evidence you collect on scene determines how long is spent working on that particular case," Schrader said. "For the most part I spend most of my days in here."

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood crime investigation shows often leaves people with a misconception of what actually takes place, Schrader said.

"We don't have all the tubes and the electronic equipment that you see on TV," he said. "A lot of that's Hollywood stuff. In our lifetime you'll never see DNA done in five minutes; it just won't happen."

 

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