By Mary O’KEEFE
On Friday a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the Verdugo Regional Crime Laboratory located in Glendale.
It is a collaboration that will allow Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena to work together to solve crimes, both cold cases and active. It is expected to be fully operational in May.
The idea for the forensic crime lab began with Glendale police in 2007. Their idea was to enhance the forensic facility they already had at the department. They worked with Congressman Adam Schiff who in 2008 was able to secure $1.5 million in federal funding.
In addition to the three cities, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistics Information Network) round the partnership out.
The lab will be able to identify DNA evidence and compare ballistic information.
“We have some significant challenges that law enforcement face,” said Glendale Police Chief Ron DePompa.
A few weeks ago, the Glendale area experienced a series of residential burglaries. Police had made arrests concerning those incidents, but DePompa explained that this type of DNA laboratory in their department would be able to assist police in their investigation of these types of serious crimes.
“No one understood [the need of this type of lab] better than Congressman Schiff,” DePompa said.
Schiff congratulated the cities and law enforcement for the new laboratory and technology.
“The power of DNA is just extraordinary,” he said.
He spoke of when he was a prosecutor in the 1980s and how he witnessed the power of DNA to not only help identify those who had committed a crime but to also exonerate those who had been falsely convicted
When the discussion for the Verdugo Regional Crime Lab was started in 2007 and 2008, there had been a discovery in Los Angeles city and county of several rape kits that had been backlogged, Schiff said.
Women who had been victims of rape and who agreed to go through an examination to preserve any DNA evidence, which was then placed in a rape kit, found that those kits were not processed in a timely manner.
If those kits would have been processed and the guilty brought to trial, the victims would not have to live in fear, Schiff said.
The lab has individual rooms that specialize in a specific forensic science, from DNA to ballistics and then on to the database for research.
Calling it a tremendous tool for all three agencies, ATF Assistant Special Agent Christopher Schaefer praised the three cities for working together and for the completion of the laboratory.
If there is a drive-by [shooting] in northern California and casings are found, they are entered into the database. If Glendale police then make a traffic stop on an individual in possession of a firearm and they take that gun into evidence, they can compare the ballistics and make the connection, Schaefer said.