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First look: Inside the new Winston-Salem police ballistics lab

WINSTON-SALE, N.C. -- Bullets don’t have eyes, they can’t control their direction and they can’t talk. But, each one tells a story. It’s up to forensic investigators to figure those stories out.

“Everything that we do behind the scenes, we understand there’s a bigger picture to it,” said Ally Anderson, firearm and tool mark examiner for the Winston-Salem Police Department.

On Friday, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony for improvement to the Alexander R. Beaty Public Safety Training and Support Center. Included in those improvements is a new ballistics lab where evidence from gun-related crimes can be analyzed faster than ever before.

On Thursday, FOX8 got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the lab for the first time.

“Every case is different and you never know what you’re going to get,” Anderson said.

Before the opening of the lab, it could take up to three years for evidence to be processed at the state crime lab. Voters approved a bond referendum which included $3.4 million worth of improvements to the center.

“It’s not for the fame and glory, it’s for the justice,” Anderson said.

Inside, there is a ballistic water tank where examiners can recreate the firing of bullets from any firearms. Down the hall, there is a forensic firing range, where they can determine the distance bullets were fired from.

“Then we can give a range of about how far a shooter was from a suspect or from a certain item,” Anderson said.

The lab also includes a comparison microscope, where they can look at patterns on bullets and shell casings to help solve crimes.

“You can see all [the] divots and impressions inside,” Anderson said, while demonstrating their tactics.

While it can still be several weeks before examiners can make a concrete conclusion, the new lab enables them to give investigators, and the families of victims, the answers they seek earlier than ever before.

The lab works on cases, not only from the Winston-Salem Police Department, but also Forsyth County, other counties and as far as neighboring states.

“Everything we’ve accomplished in the past couple of years, I’d say we’re pretty advanced,” Anderson said.

The ribbon cutting for the improved center will take place Friday at 10 a.m.