State officials hoped Iowa’s new crime lab in Ankeny would reduce a backlog of cases but six months later, the backlog is still there. The section of the lab that helps evaluate evidence in drug cases doubled its productivity last month, but there’s still a pile of cases waiting.
Jerry Brown, the D-C-I crime lab administrator, believes the lab will start catching up soon, but today it still can’t keep up with the evidence submitted by state and local investigators. “The quicker we get cases back, the more they submit cases,” Brown says. The new D-C-I crime lab is much larger and has more modern equipment than the old lab which was near the statehouse in Des Moines.
Sandy Stoltenow is the drug lab’s supervisor and she’s happy with her new environment. “The Wallace building was not a pleasant place to work,” she says. The new, 50-million dollar laboratory for criminal investigations is located in Ankeny, on the Des Moines Area Community College campus.
Paul Hermsen is one of the technicians in the lab, and he says safety conditions have improved significantly. Hermsen says lab techs shared a four foot hood over their work area in the old lab, but now they each have their own work area and a four foot hood above it. Hermsen says with the new equipment and more space, the new lab bears little resemblance to the old lab. “It’s pretty much a night and day difference,” Hermsen says. Brown, the D-C-I crime lab administrator, says the old lab was kind of like an office cubicle in a basement. “I worked there 28 years,” Brown says. “I never had a window.”