Like a police department, forensic labs and crime labs must be able to account for every piece of evidence that is processed at their facility. On top of securing chain of custody, there is also more pressure than ever for these labs to increase efficiency in order to keep up with processing the growing amount of forensic evidence being collected at crime scenes. While new and improved forensic lab equipment is helping enable this increase in efficiency, it also means that backlogged labs are forced to find the time and funding to reconfigure their spaces to fit new technology.
There’s one type of often-overlooked forensic lab equipment that can help in all of these areas: your storage equipment. Having a storage solution that suits the exact needs of your lab and space can make all the difference when it comes to:
Securing the Evidence
Chain of Custody
Allowing Flexibility for
From evidence drop-off to processing to the time evidence goes to the lab, see how the right storage can help your crime lab work smarter.
When evidence arrives at the lab from law enforcement agencies, it needs a locked storage location to ensure that it’s secure until it can be logged and processing can begin.
Evidence lockers are the perfect way for law enforcement agencies to deposit evidence securely, without the need for easily-misplaced keys. These steel lockers offer myriad security features and come in multiple sizes and configurations based on common sizes of evidence containers. Lockers can even include a tube drop or mail slot so that multiple vials of biological evidence or envelopes can be deposited into one compartment.
Technicians can access and remove evidence from lockers at their convenience, meaning evidence can be dropped off without an attendant. By combining evidence lockers with ControLoc technology, technicians can also be granted access to remove or deposit evidence from specific lockers using individually assigned PIN codes. This adds an extra layer of security and accountability to your chain of custody.
It’s an unavoidable effect of the rapid increase in forensic evidence being collected: many crime labs have a backlog of evidence waiting to be processed. This is more than just a source of a potential PR issue – improperly stored evidence can make or break a case. While ideally all evidence would be processed and immediately returned to the appropriate law enforcement agency, many forensic labs face a need for long-term storage – especially storage that doesn’t take up the space needed for other forensic lab equipment or collaboration spaces.
High Density Mobile Storage offers a way to store up to double the amount of evidence in the same storage footprint, allowing you to compress your storage area or get ahead of future needs. Rows can be locker using physical locks, PIN code access, or even badge swipe access for maximum tracking capability.
We need maximum flexibility: Wheelhouse mobile storage on XPress Deck is the most versatile and flexible way to incorporate mobile storage into your space. The decking and rails sit on top of your existing floor and the entire system can be relocated as your arrangement or needs change.
We have refrigerated evidence storage: ActivRAC Stainless Steel can be used in refrigerators and freezers to help you maintain a sterile environment and make the most of expensive temperature-controlled space.
We have a large amount of long-term evidence and don’t foresee that changing soon: Standard mobile storage uses rails that sit in your floors and offers more capacity for labs with greater need for long-term storage.
When a technician begins processing evidence, they need to be able to access it efficiently – but when they’re finished or have to step away, it’s just as critical that evidence is put back into a secure location. Crime labs that neglect to secure in-process evidence risk breaking chain of custody protocol.
We’ve seen in-process evidence handled a few different ways.
Large Freestyle Lockers
At Colorado’s Jefferson County Crime Lab, evidence is checked into a storage room and a request is made to a Forensic Examiner to pick up the evidence for testing. Many times, evidence testing won’t be complete when a technician is ready to leave for the day. To aid with this issue, modified FreeStyle® lockers were created and installed for each technician to ensure secure storage for in-process evidence.
ControLoc with Evidence Lockers
For maximum tracking capability, a small bank of evidence lockers can be equipped with ControLoc technology. This allows technicians to access only one specific locker using an assigned PIN code and/or badge swipe. When they begin work, they can use their code to open the locker with their assigned piece of evidence. Then when they are finished or leaving for the day, they can use their assigned code to replace the evidence to the locker.
Under Desk Lockers
To facilitate security and quick retrieval of materials, a crime lab in the northeast US utilized specially-sized evidence storage lockers that fit beneath each workstation. When they got up or left their station, evidence could simply be secured in the under-desk locker.
Case Study: Northeast Police Agency Protects the Chain of Custody
A state police agency in the Northeast faced challenges in the critical functions of protecting evidence through the chain of custody in state-of-the-art crime laboratories, and providing secure, long-term storage for evidence and property at its headquarter's central repository. The storage solution needed to be tailored specifically to match the agency's process for ensuring the integrity of evidence throughout the chain of custody.
Many crime labs now have reference materials, such as a weapons library, to serve as a hands-on catalog for identification and comparison purposes. It’s a way for crime lab technicians to study and test firearms to support investigations.
Whether you have weapons, chemical or drug samples, or other testing materials, high density mobile storage offers an efficient way to store items without taking up too much precious square footage.
At the Illinois Metro Crime Lab, the local Spacesaver consultant saw that lab technicians needed compact, configurable storage based on the types of weapons that were being stored, so he suggested pairing high-density mobile shelving with WeaponsWRX. See how the configurable pegboard-style solution helped them organize their reference materials.
Similarly, the FBI’s Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia used weapons and pistol racks on high-density mobile.
Ready to get started?
Just need some assistance with the planning process for your crime lab. Contact us for a free space assessment or to talk storage.