The Utah Department of Public Safety’s new crime lab is a modern facility for state-of-the-art forensic testing. Officials say crime victims can look forward to more cases being resolved sooner.
Governor Gary Herbert and two state lawmakers who help make the criminal justice budget toured the new lab in Salt Lake City Thursday. The lab does testing for the state as well as Utah cities, counties and federal law enforcement agencies. The new space, director Jay Henry says is much more efficient than the old one.
“We are able to test more evidence faster and provide results quicker to law enforcement,” Henry says.
Henry offered a peak into the new in-house ballistics, or firearms unit, which used to be 45 minutes away in Ogden. And before this new building, there wasn’t a space to process vehicles involved in a crime. Now they have sort of a laboratory/garage hybrid.
“We can look at the vehicle and find the stains and the evidence on it in a controlled environment and keep it safe and keep it secure and keep it a pleasant working environment,” he says.
The additional space and technology also means more sexual assault evidence kits can be tested faster, which has been an important issue for Democratic State Representative Angelo Romero. She sponsored House Bill 200 this year, which provided funding to test all rape kits in the state. Romero sought roughly $2 million for the effort. The legislature gave her $1.2 million.
“This has been a long time coming for us and so it’s nice to see the facility built,” Romero says. “And my goal is to make sure that we’re fully staffed so we’re able to process, not only rape kits but also identify DNA for other crimes.”
Jay Henry says this recent support for the lab is unprecedented in his 20 years with the department.
“I think the public will be very surprised and pleased with the amount of work that comes out of this facility and the cases that are solved,” Henry says.
Utah Lawmakers set aside money to build the new lab two years ago.