Mar 04 10 - 03:01 PM
At the end of March the GBI is scheduled to close a field crime lab located in Summerville and reopen an office previously operated in Gordon County.
“We are moth balling up the Summerville office and going to reopen the Region 1 office in Gordon County,” said director Vernon Keenan.
The decision to close the lab and open an office came after the Bureau was asked by Gov. Sonny Perdue to drastically reduce overall spending; its doors close March 31.
“We have been through hell closing down three labs due to budget cuts,” Keenan said.
The Summerville lab will close, along with a lab in Columbus and another one in south Georgia.
Chief Robert Paris, public information officer with the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office, said having the Region 1 office back in Calhoun will be “a great advantage.”
“It makes the agent assigned to Calhoun, Gordon County more accessible to local officers, as well as other GBI resources,” he explained.
Paris said most of the agents in the Region 1 office have worked in Gordon County.
“The Region 1 Office has a really great staff. Local law enforcement has always maintained an excellent relationship with the GBI,” he said.
However, Paris said the closure of the lab in Summerville will create a hardship among local law enforcement in all of northwest Georgia. The Gordon County location will function only as an office and will not have lab equipment.
“That closure will make it necessary for us to forward evidence to GBI Headquarters in Decatur for processing and testing, as well as having to send detectives there to attend autopsies,” he said.
Keenan said the GBI has the No. 1 task force in America for investigating Internet crimes against children, but he worries that the closure of the lab in Summerville, and the other labs in the state, will prevent speedy processing of evidence such as DNA.
The GBI already has an extensive backlog of cases, and it is Keenan’s fear that with the closure of the labs that evidence will sit waiting.
“It takes a while to sort through all of the toxicology,” he said.
However, top priority cases, and those asked by investigators to be expedited will receive first attention. Keenan points out that the GBI processed 1,853 priority cases between July and December 2009.
“We understand the economic stress that the state government is under, and that the GBI has not been immune from budgetary cutbacks. The GBI still does an excellent job in delivering law enforcement services and assisting local sheriffs and police despite reductions in state spending,” Paris said.