Backlog at the North Louisiana Crime Lab in Shreveport
MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The North Louisiana Crime Lab in Shreveport is short on DNA analysts, prolonging criminal investigations across Louisiana.
The backlog at the North Louisiana Crime Lab in Shreveport as of June 1, 2021 was 388 cases. The North Louisiana crime lab services 29 parishes in North and Central Louisiana, but they only have 6 DNA analysts to get the job done. The lab in Shreveport is for toxicology and DNA analysis.
The DNA section supervisor at the lab, Michelle Jackson, said the average turnaround time for DNA analysis is about 130 days. She said it can be quick for them to analyze DNA and get a report out for a simple case that only has one item of evidence.
“Now as a case gets more complicated and there’s more items of evidence to it and there’s maybe different types of analysis we have to do, it lengthens the time,” said Jackson.
She said cases that take longer to analyze tend to have multiple items to analyze, like sexual assault, homicide, or cases with multiple crime scenes.
“Then when you multiply that across the 29 parishes that really becomes a big number as far as items of evidence that have to be analyzed,” said Jackson.
Jackson said while all cases are important, with a backlog as long as 388 cases, they have to re-prioritize certain ones. She said for example, if an individual needs to be identified or if a case is going to court.
“So you end up having a triage of the backlog and we’re still trying to get the oldest cases out and then other cases come up that need immediate attention,” said Jackson.
The backlog at the crime lab in Shreveport contributes to the longevity of cases being worked on by agencies across Louisiana. The Monroe Police Department takes their crime scene evidence to Shreveport and Chief Victor Zordan said the backlog is something Monroe PD has to deal with.
“It makes everything take longer. We want to get the solution and the right solution to the problems that we have as quickly as we can,” said Chief Zordan.
Zordan said it’s hard on the families of people involved in ongoing cases.
“A lot of the families and rightly so, want closure and we can’t have closure until the investigation is completed, we can’t speak about it. I know the public is tired of us saying we can’t talk about it because of an investigation still going on but it is,” said Chief Zordan.
Zordan said they want to provide closure but can’t close a case without the crime lab’s help.
“We want them to be able to have that but we have rules we have to play by and we’re all part of a team, we can’t do it by ourselves,” said Zordan.
Zordan said the lab can give bits of information to the Monroe Police Department before the analysis is complete to help them further their investigation. Jackson from the crime lab said the turnaround time is especially difficult when a police department has no evidence or leads.
“It’s especially difficult if it’s an unknown subject and the agency is completely out of leads, and they’re relying on us to give them a name for something to follow up on. Missing persons, that’s another one that’s heart-wrenching for the family,” said Jackson.
The North Louisiana Crime Lab will add another DNA analyst to their team sometime this summer. Jackson is hoping an additional person will help them reduce their backlog of cases. She said the ideal turnaround time for cases would be 30 days.
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