Finally, a crime lab to rival 'CSI's'
The high-tech forensics facility to be shared by police and sheriff's agencies will have its grand opening May 11 at California State University, Los Angeles.
By Troy Anderson
Next month, many of the cutting-edge, crime-fighting technologies seen on the fictional TV drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" will become a reality in the real Hollywood.
After years in the making, Los Angeles city and county officials are planning a May 11 grand opening for the largest municipal crime lab in the nation, widely touted as being the latest and best effort in gang and crime-fighting efforts.
"This will help us solve old and cold cases," District Attorney Steve Cooley said Wednesday. "And as the ultimate tool in crime prevention, we'll be able to catch serial killers and serial rapists during their crime sprees, and people will not be raped and murdered. We have this whole new world of advances in forensic science and now we'll have a state-of-the-art building."
The Los Angeles Forensic Science Center Crime Laboratory at California State University, Los Angeles, cost $102 million.
"I started in this business in 1969 and it's truly astounding to look at the strides we have made," said county sheriff's Crime Lab Director Barry Fisher. "Part of this has happened because of the public's fascination with forensic science. You can hardly talk about this stuff without recognizing shows like 'CSI' and programs on Court TV, which have galvanized the public."
Beset by outdated equipment, inadequate work space and a lack of personnel, thousands of DNA samples have piled up and many "Cold Case" files have been unsolved for years at the existing Los Angeles Police Department and sheriff's labs.
But the new five-story, 209,080-square-foot facility combining the LAPD and sheriff's labs will feature the latest technology and far more space for more personnel.
"We'll be able to take more than just the worst sexual assaults, homicides and aggravated assaults," said sheriff's Scientific Services Bureau Capt. Earl M. Shields.
The facility will also house classrooms from the university's School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics and the California Forensic Science Institute.
"I think this is a cutting-edge lab," said Joseph Peterson, director of the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics. "I think we will have no peer in terms of the quality, space and facilities. So it's among the very, very best."
The lab, with room for 400 employees, will provide evidence testing for all law enforcement agencies in the county using the latest technology, including DNA analysis and computerized programs that allow jurors and investigators to view crime-scene re-enactments.
Evidence from about 140,000 criminal cases will be submitted for analysis annually. Scanning electron microscopes will be used to analyze trace evidence, such as gunshot residue and fire-scene debris.