Local News

SBI Crime Lab Faces Cutbacks Due To State Budget Crisis

Posted July 26, 2002

— Agents with the

State Bureau Of Investigation

use technology from their crime lab to help solve cases for law enforcement all over the state. Agents expect to see their workload rise to more than 40,000 cases this year. However, the prospect of budget cuts has already doubled the backlog of cases.

When a

mother and son

were killed by a hit-and-run driver near Wendell, police had no suspect. Within days, SBI agents from the crime lab matched broken headlight pieces to a vehicle and an arrest was made. That high-profile case got immediate attention in the lab, but now the backlog of lower profile crimes will take much longer to solve.

"This has certainly been a challenge and a frustration," state Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

Cooper said potential budget cuts under consideration by lawmakers will compromise crimefighting.

"Investigations are going to suffer. We don't want that to happen," he said.

To prepare for looming budget cuts, the SBI cut out overtime two months ago.

"We just don't have the resources or the time to work those cases as we have in the past," said Jerry Richardson, SBI Deputy Assistant Director. "We're getting more cases in and we're having less time to work those cases, and that's going to increase our backlog."

With thousands of rape kits containing DNA sitting unanalyzed all over the state, the SBI had hoped to beef up its staff to offer justice to the survivors. The attorney general has pushed legislation to create a lab fee for criminals to help meet the demands for more DNA testing. Now, with cuts on the horizon, SBI agents fear the fees will be canceled out.

Lawmakers have not yet finalized a budget, so the SBI is left to wait like other agencies. A new class of SBI recruits will soon join the ranks, but they are only expected to fill a few vacant positions.


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