$40 million crime lab to help speed up Metro investigations - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

$40 million crime lab to help speed up Metro investigations


Metro's new $40 million crime lab is just days from opening, but city leaders are offering a sneak peek inside the off-limits, high-security complex.

The price tag is high, but city leaders say the new crime lab makes this a safer community by helping remove criminals from the streets in record time.

For years, Nashville has sent DNA evidence to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's crime lab for analysis, and the criticism was always the TBI was overwhelmed serving 95 counties.

While that DNA evidence sent to the TBI is typically processed in four to five months, Metro leaders say, they now have the ability to process that same evidence in just 30 days.

In addition, Metro will test its own ballistics, test-fire weapons and will have a better ability to process the 100 sets of fingerprints collected every day in Nashville.

"Taking people off the street at an earlier date - at the first or second or 10th burglary instead of the 50th or 60th as we often find," said Metro police Chief Steve Anderson.

The fingerprint database will allow Metro police to hook up newly arrested people with old, unsolved crimes.

"Two years later, an individual was booked for no driver's license, and we did a search and it hit. And when they went and cuffed him, he confessed. It's been a wonderful tool for us," said fingerprint expert Julia Hopper.

Mayor Karl Dean has been spending big money on some major projects - the Music City Center, a proposed baseball stadium downtown and, now, the newest crime lab in America.

"For a city to truly be successful, it has to be a safe city," Dean said. "This will allow our cases to move a little bit faster, allow us to use the most sophisticated detection analysis available in many more cases and, ultimately, make Nashville a safer city."

Metro police are also now collecting DNA evidence on small-time crimes like burglaries and auto thefts - the kind of thing you are most likely to become a victim - so they can go beyond just fingerprints and see if the DNA starts linking burglars with armed robbers and those suspected of more violent crimes.

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