Winston-Salem police want forensics lab

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Winston-Salem police have proposed the option of getting a forensics lab at the Winston-Salem Police Department to analyze evidence related to their cases.

This comes while they say about 400 of said cases are backlogged, pending analysis by the state crime lab in Raleigh.

"We're showing some pending cases as far back as 2010," said Karen Watson, supervisor of the Winston-Salem Police Forensic Services Division.

Watson says the department proposed the option to city leaders on Monday.

The department went through three options. One of them was to build a lab of their own on site. The initial cost of doing so would range between $500,000 and $600,000. Hundreds of thousands of additional dollars would then need to be spent on paying salaries, and annual costs.

Option two is to send their evidence to private labs. The department already does this for high-priority cases, like homicides, where the department can't afford to wait for the state crime lab to analyze the evidence. However, when there are private beings performing the analysis, they are often required to testify in court. Watson says it can easily cost $10,000 to transport the private analysts to Winston-Salem to testify in court.

Their preferred option is to pay a private company to set up a crime lab inside the Winston-Salem Police Department. They say the initial startup cost would be eliminated, leaving the city with about a $108,000 bill annually. They say the cost is so low because the department would be providing the space, plus the company they have in mind would be able to use the lab as a marketing example.

Watson says if the department was to get a private lab on-site, their backlog would almost immediately be eliminated. She added that other agencies would be interested in using the lab, as well, which would offset much of the cost to the Winston-Salem Police Department.