Commissioners To Consider Funding Forensic Chemist For Crime Lab

Commissioners To Consider Funding Forensic Chemist For Crime Lab Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 26 November 2014 05:00

Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will  consider funding for a forensic chemist to work for the Wilmington Police Department's Crime Lab during their upcoming December 1st, meeting.
According to a memo sent to the Board of Commissioners earlier this month, the City County and Court staff met to determine ways to reduce crime and the jail populations. District Attorney Ben David has asked the County to fund a fill-time Forensic Chemist for the City of Wilmington Forensic Lab.
The purpose is to sentence serious drug offenders in a more timely manner and reduce the amount of time offenders are housed in the County's detention center awaiting trial, which also reduces population in the jail and operational costs.
The interlocal agreement between the City and County would run from January 1, 2015 to June 30th, 2018. At that time, the effectiveness of the additional position will be evaluated. The annual cost of the chemist position will be $83,459.
According to Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, currently the Wilmington Forensic Lab staffs one full-time chemist and one part-time Forensic Technologist. The lab was opened in 2009 and performs blood alcohol tests with a two-week turn around to expedite DWI criminal trials. The lab performs tests for the County Sheriff's Department and Highway Patrol as well as other smaller agencies.
The lab is capable of testing illegal and legal narcotics including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills such as synthetic opoids and methamphetamines. Tests are performed on a case-by-case basis.
Evangelous said DA Ben David has expressed a desire to expedite high priority cases and offenders. Many of those cases include trafficking offenses. Many offenders either wait in jail or are out on bond awaiting trial.
Evangelous wrote to the Commissioners explaining, "The Police Department's lab is not staffed to prioritize pending drug cases for the entire County" and the additional funding for the chemist would work on cases derived throughout the entire County.
Evangelous explained, "The Department's Forensic Lab can provide drug testing results in less than 60 days. The current turn around time with the State's lab is approximately one-year. Criminal trials can be conducted in a timelier manner, which will result in the incarceration of dangerous offenders. Additionally, offenders being sentenced to the State's prison system or the Federal prison system would shift the costs of housing those offenders awaiting trial away from the local taxpayer."
He explained, "This proposal provides a win-win situation where serious drug offenders are sentenced in a timelier manner, making our community a safer place for our citizens. Second, there is an opportunity to free up jail space at our County facility, which may reduce the cost of housing serious offenders while awaiting trial."


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