This month, I thought I’d tell you about a local website that you just may find fascinating. If you are a fan of police and crime dramas on TV, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can they really do that?”, when forensic labs analyze evidence and come up with amazing results in a short period of time. Can they really determine DNA from a small speck of blood, a single hair, or a few skin cells left behind, or can they analyze fingerprints and compare them to databases as successfully as on the TV shows? You may have also wondered if police departments in Lake County have access to some of this amazing technology.
Obviously, nothing is as simple as the television shows imply. After all, they only have an hour to solve each crime. Amazingly though, much of this sophisticated science is available and under the guiding hands of skilled scientists, helps to unravel the mysteries of crime. That includes right here in Lake County. Also, if you are voter in Lake County, you have played a large role in establishing this capability.
The Lake County Crime Lab, located on Fairgrounds Road in Painesville Township, is a first class forensics laboratory. It was founded in 1973 and is funded by a countywide tax levy (that’s where you come in.) The Lake County Crime Laboratory is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors — Laboratory Accreditation Board, assuring that it adheres to stringent policies and that its’ scientists are skillfully trained in state-of-the-art technology. The Laboratory serves Lake County law enforcement agencies at no cost and assesses a fee for out of county police agencies.
One of my first interactions with the Crime Lab came in my early years as Mayor. I received a phone call one morning at 6:00 am from the Police Department advising me that a murder had occurred at Pine Ridge Apartments a few hours earlier. A young woman was murdered in her bedroom, apparently by someone who broke into her room through a sliding door. Willoughby detectives were able to pull a single fingerprint from the door, which was sent to the Crime Lab. Within a few hours, they matched the print to a male living in Wickliffe. Later that evening, we had this suspect in custody. He was subsequently convicted and is serving a lengthy prison sentence.
The Lake County Crime Lab has earned a reputation for excellence on a statewide basis. To answer a few of the questions posed earlier, yes, they can get DNA from a small speck of blood, a single hair, or a few skin cells left behind. The skin cell technology, called Touch DNA, is routinely collected by our police detectives today in break-ins or robberies. What’s more, they can analyze these samples quickly. In the early days of DNA (mid 90’s), the lab would need a blood sample about the size of a quarter and it would take three days to get results. Today, the lab has the technology to analyze 8 samples at a time with results in about 12 hours.
You can learn more about the Crime Lab at the website I mentioned earlier. The address is www.lakecountyprosecutor.org/crimelab/. This site contains much information about the lab. The most interesting for me is The Crimescene, a newsletter they publish on a quarterly basis. They write about the latest technology and how it has been used to solve local crimes. Every issue is a fascinating read and demonstrates what great police services we have in Lake County. I urge you to take a look at this site. I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.
Have a great month.