Metro crime lab gets new accreditation

LAS VEGAS -- The Metro Police crime lab is getting special recognition this week. It is National Forensic Science Week, and the lab, where the real "CSI" work happens, is getting a boost in its accreditation.

The Metro crime lab is getting international accreditation from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, which means there is a more strict set of rules for forensic scientists like Kim Dannenberger.

"I think it minimizes the chance of mistakes because there are so many checks and balances," Dannenberger said.

The lab and its staff had to earn the accreditation by passing a five-day assessment and completing more testing, reviews, and education.

"We have people going to prison or being exonerated from prison based upon our scientific analysis, so it's imperative that we are ensured that we are providing the very best," director of lab services Kim Murga said.

While Murga is celebrating the recognition, she admits there is a backlog of cases. She says the wait for a violent crimes case to be processed can take up to a year and property crimes take more than a year.

"It's something that we're paying close attention to this year and we have several measures in place that we're working on to help mitigate that," Murga said.

Some cases are expedited.

"That happens with series, so if we have a violent robbery series, certainly and there is somebody that is threatening the safety of southern Nevada," Murga said.

Murga says the backlog for DNA processing has actually improved by more than 50 percent from two years ago. The chair of the lab accreditation board Renee Romero says backlogs are common.

"We see it nationwide and when we're serving such large populations like Las Vegas and a population that does see a certain amount of crime just based merely on size, it is hard for the lab to turn those around at a very quick rate," Romero said.

According to the National Institute of Justice, a sample of crime labs in 2011 showed that out of the more than 107,000 only about 18,000 were fewer than 30 days old, while more than 83,000 were more than 30 days old.


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