What would happen if Hamilton County's crime lab closes? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

What would happen if Hamilton County's crime lab closes?

By Dan Wells - bio | email
Posted by Trina Edwards - email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - As budget cuts cause severe staffing and funding problems for the Hamilton County Coroner's Office, Coroner Odell Owens said more proposed cuts in 2010 would force the shutdown of the county's forensic lab, a move that could stop local crime fighting efforts in a heartbeat.

Closing the forensic section of the coroner's office would mean DNA testing and crime lab analysis would take a lot longer.

"It maybe painful for the county, but come January 1, (if) there is no forensic lab, then you're going to feel the pain," Owens told Hamilton County Commissioners during a budget hearing on Tuesday.

The coroner believes that the ability to use a national DNA database and the automated fingerprint identification system is essential for the volume of crime work that Hamilton County law enforcement generates. If the local crime lab closes, all of the testing and case work would be sent to the state crime lab (BCI) in Columbus.

"I am calling the attorney general and I'm going to go up and meet with him about the lab and seek his assistance and maybe he can look in his budget to see about BCI," said Owens. "Breaking their back is not in the best interest of the people of Ohio."

In Clermont County, officials say they send a lot of their information to Columbus. They say it's not a problem now, but it could be in the future.

"I see a big problem coming," said Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg. "Say for example some of the larger metropolitan areas, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Cleveland, if they would curtail their lab operation in the coroner's office and then they too would start sending everything to BCI, it could overwhelm them."

Rodenberg says he, along with other suburban counties like Warren and Butler, uses BCI right now, but he believes the state lab can only take so much additional work.

"They're probably at the breaking point right now as many agencies are," said Rodenberg. "They don't have extra people sitting around looking for work to do. They have a lot of work and a limited amount of time to do it in. They probably could not absorb a whole lot more work without compromising cases everywhere."

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