Federal Crime Lab Moves to Houston

Because of damage from Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is moving its regional crime lab from New Orleans to Houston. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports

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Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Virginia Dabbs says the agency is making this move because the New Orleans forensics lab is damaged so badly. She says it's a real shame because it's located in the New Orleans Customs House, one of the city's oldest and most historic buildings.

"It's over 200 years old, the building that we're housed in. It's a gorgeous building. Right now, as we speak, the building is being refurbished. But it's quite extensive, when you get into remediation, meaning to get rid of mold. So we can't go back in there because it's the mold."

Dabbs says damage is so widespread around the New Orleans area the agency couldn't find another location that could meet its needs, so they decided to relocate the lab to Houston. She says this lab does important work.

"Basically our customs and border protection labs are forensic. They play a critical role in support of our anti-terrorism mission, in training our officers in the identification of weapons of mass destruction, in crime scene development, and assistance in detecting narcotics."

Dabbs says this will be a permanent move, at least for the foreseeable future. It's going to take several months to get the Houston lab up and running, and their New Orleans employees willing to make the move will be offered the same jobs in Houston. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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