Work on a new state crime lab is nearing completion, more than two and-a-half years after a groundbreaking on the Ankeny campus of Des Moines Area Community College. Lab administrator Jerry Brown says the complex was designed to house four different laboratories. The D-C-I Crime Laboratory, the state Medical Examiner’s officer, University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory, and the Ag Department laboratory will be located in four separate buildings going up on 24 acres of the DMACC campus, with a causeway linking the buildings. While he can’t say how many people the other three agencies will be bringing to the new complex, Brown says the state crime lab will have about fifty workers. That number could grow in time. His agency was told to design for the future, so they did — but “the future did not necessarily accomodate the amount of money that was allocated for the project,” so then plans were scaled down to match the money available. Brown says the lab’s design should let it accomodate up to 13 more people if staff expands in time. While some of the labs will work together, like the crime lab and the coroner, Brown says it’s not a constant collaboration. They do share work on cases sometimes, with the lab asking the Medical Examiner’s staff about anatomy, “bones and things like that,” and the lab’s toxicology section may do tasks that help out the coroner. The biggest job for the crime lab? Telling law-enforcement agencies what they’ve seized from suspects. The one section they have the most cases submitted in is the drug identification, he says a lot of the undercover buys by Narcotics Enforcement agencies send in substances for analysis. The number-two most common chore, he guesses, would be latent fingerprint identification. But not only can’t his people always solve a crime in 44 minutes like the TV detectives, they have a caseload different from the glamorous actors on shows like C-S-I. Unlike places like Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles, “In Iowa, fortunately, we don’t do a lot of shooting of our neighbors,” and it’s not a big part of the caseload. The Crime Lab staff anticipates its new home will be ready to start moving into by the end of February and the move should be complete by mid-March.
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