Three area police departments have dropped contracts with the Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory, and there is concern others will follow, threatening the viability of a lab that currently provides evidence analysis for 100 jurisdictions in southwest Ohio.
The departures provide the first evidence that the downtown Dayton lab, which employs 26 other folks, is losing industry to the state of Ohio.
The Ohio Bureau of legal identity and research (BCI) provides loose trying out for police, sheriff’s departments and prosecutors at its laboratory in London.
For some jurisdictions, the transportation costs involved in using the London lab are easily recovered through savings from getting out of the local contract.
Ken Betz, the regional crime lab director, said there is work enough for everybody, for now. But if regional labs continue losing business, he said, it would not only hurt them but also cause a crushing workload at the BCI lab, which has long struggled with a backlog on testing cases.
“If we collapse, it may be very dear for the state to tackle our caseload,” stated Betz. “among Hamilton and Sir Bernard Law counties, we work 30,000 prison cases a 12 months. The state is not in a position to soak up them.”
The crime lab has lengthy been one of the crucial area’s stopgap agencies against crime, offering fingerprint identity, DNA analysis and blood, drug and semen trying out for space legislation enforcement.
Laboratory testing has become an increasing and vital aspect of law enforcement, and is often the difference between a closed case and one that remains unsolved for months or even years. DNA analysis is expensive, however, and as more and more jurisdictions look to cut costs, the state lab provides an alternative.
Citing costs, the five Rivers MetroParks Ranger department, the Middletown and Butler Twp. police departments opted not to renew their contracts on the finish of remaining year.
“I will have to shed light on my choice used to be primarily based completely upon monetary purposes and no longer the provider or any factor within the lab,” Butler Twp. Police chief Carl Bush wrote in a Dec. 30 letter to Betz. “My hopes are the monetary problems change and we may be able to return to the lab within the not too far-off long run.”
The three contracts represented a $110,500 loss of revenue for the regional lab.
Overall, contracts with local police departments accounted for $2.9 million of the lab’s $3.9 million budget in 2011, with the remainder coming from federal grants, according to Montgomery County budget data.
Betz mentioned he balanced his budget by taking up state contracts last year, one for as much as $forty,000 for evidence research in drug circumstances and the other for as much as $ninety,000 in DNA research.
each have been to assist BCI with its proof backlog.
lawyer common Mike DeWine, who oversees BCI, made a subject matter of the lab backlog in his 2010 race against Democratic incumbent Richard Cordray.
Since then BCI, which processes more than 7,000 DNA cases a year, has cut the 125-day turnaround on DNA testing by 25 percent, said BCI Superintendent Tom Stickrath.
“We’re trending downward, but we’re not anywhere that we want to be yet,” Stickrath said.
Although local jurisdictions aren’t charged for the testing, it is by no means free to taxpayers.
The overall price range for BCI’s 5 labs this monetary year was $19.5 million, in line with state data. funding got here from three sources: fees for services and products corresponding to for background exams, basic fund income and different state collections.
Betz, who served on the transition group for DeWine, didn’t criticize the London lab or any jurisdictions that agreement with the state. however he stated running with an area company has advantages.
“When there’s a local issue that requires immediate action, we respond to it,” Betz said. “Police departments that we work with know that.”
Bush said the turnaround time in the two months Butler Twp. police have used BCI’s services has been similar to that of the regional crime lab. With gas and supply expenses budgeted at $2,000 a year to use BCI, Bush said he is saving about $13,000 annually.
Lt. Mark Arendt of the Five Rivers MetroParks Ranger Division estimates a savings of $10,000 a year for his office. He admits it’s inconvenient to transport evidence to London.
“The only factor that led to us making the switch was the cost,” said Arendt, adding the department has a $3.1 million annual budget and employs 34 officers.
Other police departments, including Kettering and Centerville, say they’ll continue sending business to the regional lab.
“We’ve already signed our contract for 2012,” said Kettering Police Lt. William Karolyi , adding the contract totaled $87,000. “They haven’t raised the price in four years.”
Centerville Police Officer John Davis said the department has signed a $56,000 contract with Betz for 2012 and “to my knowledge we have had no discussions about switching.”
Betz said in the future the state may have to subsidize the regional labs to keep them operational, particularly if additional departments make the switch.
“We’re keeping an eye on that right now,” Stickrath said. “We know these labs provide a valuable service.”