Evidence analyzed quicker at new Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab

Published: Nov. 3, 2016 at 5:29 PM CDT
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Evidence is being processed quicker as turnaround times have improved at the new Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab.

This is important because, if a case is waiting for the analysis to get completed at the lab, it slows down the investigation, according to Pam Zilly, the NSP Crime Lab Director. The area where the lab is seeing significant improvements is the controlled substances section.

"They gained space, which allowed us to add a forensic scientist in that area. They also gained space to add additional instruments to support additional people, so that was wonderful."

Before moving into the new space, Zilly said there were 1000 pending cases. "Now we are below 500. We feel very good about that. The people in that area have really worked hard and are excited to see some improvement."

The NSP Crime Lab wants to get evidence analyzed as quick as possible, but they don't want to sacrifice the quality, which comes first. "Drug cases tend to turn around quickly as far as from a point of an arrest to when they get to court that tends to come up pretty quickly. When we have to delay that because we can't get to the testing, that delays everything and we don't like that to happen," Zilly said.

Turnaround times depends on several factors, including how many cases are coming in, how many people there are to work on those cases and the vacancies at the lab. "When we have someone in training, that not only is a non-productive person, but it also takes away productivity from whoever is training them," Zilly said.

Currently there are two vacant positions at the NSP Crime Lab, one in the Biology Unit and one in the Firearms/Toolmarks Section. There are currently six people in training, two in Toxicology, one in Biology Casework, one in Biology, one in Latent Prints and one in Controlled Substances. Zilly expects their training to be complete in 2017.

According to statistics provided to 1011 News by NSP, crime laboratory case submissions overall are up 18.36% over the same period last year. The Controlled Substance Section has experienced a 25% increase in case submissions for drug chemistry testing.

Zilly said it is encouraging to improve turnaround rates, but now the biggest focus is on filling vacancies. "As long as those exist, there will be times our backlogs go up, there will be times where we are full staffed with trained people all productive and our back logs go down, that's the nature of the business," Zilly said.