The Sam Houston State University Regional Crime Lab in The Woodlands is now open and accepting evidence. The new crime lab received its accreditation in October 2010 and began accepting evidence from state and local agencies just before Thanksgiving, according to university officials.
"We were excited to be able to accept evidence in time for the busy holiday season," said Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, laboratory director and Scotland-Yard trained forensic scientist.
The 5,000 square foot facility offers laboratory services for controlled substances and toxicology in criminal and civil cases, as well as death investigations. It also provides support services, including courtroom testimony, expert testimony and consulting services.
The laboratory will ease the backlog of criminal cases in Texas by serving the basic needs of nearly 100 state and local agencies in 10 counties in Southeast Texas. The lab, staffed by 10 employees, is expected to handle up to 5,000 cases annually.
The regional crime lab will offer fee-based services to attorneys, medical examiner’s offices, law enforcement agencies, the public and other laboratories and organizations. Examiners at the lab will test for controlled substances in seized drugs and provide toxicology testing in biological specimens for alcohol and illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs.
"The laboratory is part of the comprehensive criminal justice program at Sam Houston State University," said Dr. Vincent Webb, Dean of the SHSU College of Criminal Justice and Director of the George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center. The Criminal Justice Center also houses professional and research institutes, including the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility and the Crime Victims’ Institute.
During the first two months of operation, the laboratory has been processing requests for controlled substances and blood alcohols in about three days. Drug toxicology cases are taking only seven to 14 days, according to Michael Manes, laboratory manager.
"We are fortunate to be able to offer quality forensic services in a timely manner," Manes said.
The laboratory recently implemented a laboratory information management system that will streamline operations and allow clients to access laboratory reports remotely via the web.
The lab was funded through a $1.5 million federal grant secured by U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady. The university secured The Woodlands facility in August of 2009. After the laboratory opened in October 2009 it took a full year for it to go through the accreditation process and meet the necessary statutory requirements.
"It’s been a challenging project, but we are pleased to be finally offering independent forensic services to the criminal justice community," Kerrigan said.
For more information on the Regional Crime Lab, visit www.rcl-shsu.org.