Jefferson County plans to build its first crime lab

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Missouri — Jefferson County plans to build its first crime lab, and officials said the lab is important to the entire St. Louis area.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office storage room is filled with DNA and evidence waiting to be tested.

DNA evidence can be an extremely critical component in solving a case and holding the suspect accountable,” said Grant Bissell, public safety information coordinator for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Bissell said the county didn’t have its own crime lab — so he had to send DNA evidence to the Missouri Highway Patrol in Jefferson City. Bissell said the state has been supported for years with thousands of cases.

“They literally deal with every county and every police department in the state that doesn’t have it in the main lab,” Bissell said.

Bissell said that in 2020 the Highway Patrol is limiting the types of evidence it will process to only crimes of homicide and rape. The state also said it would not accept any evidence that did not contain blood or other bodily fluids. Bissell said many of their theft and home invasion evidence has yet to be tested due to these changes. He also said there was still a long wait for the evidence they could provide to the state.

“Even though they’ve reduced that timeframe, the turnaround time can still be 9, 10, 12, 13, even 14 months to get proof that they’re going to process,” Bissell said. “We have to explain to these victims who look like it’s going to take time.”

The county came up with a solution: build its own crime lab, using money the county received through the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Our hope is that with this new crime lab, but once it’s online, that delay will be reduced significantly,” Bissell said.

The proposal is that the crime lab be built 20 minutes from the detective’s sheriff’s office in Pevely, Missouri. It will not only process DNA evidence, but also digital evidence found on phones, cars and computers.

“This is a larger situation beyond the county, as 46% of the inmates in our prison currently live somewhere outside of Jefferson County. This will impact the entire St. Louis area, as opposed to the single area of ​​Jefferson County,” Bissell adds. “It’s going to be a game-changer when it comes to bringing justice to the people of Jefferson County.”

Bissell said the crime lab is in the very early planning stages, so there is no timeline yet on when it should be built.

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