Houston Forensic Science Center Asks for New Crime Lab

Council members said they want to see more options

Houston’s forensics labs inside the Houston Police Department headquarters are inadequate and need to be housed elsewhere, officials with the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) said Monday.

The crime lab, which provides forensic services to local law enforcement agencies, is an independent government corporation.

HFSC proposed moving into 4 floors of a building at 500 Jefferson St. downtown. The new location would house office space and a firing range, as well as biology, toxicology, drugs, and latent prints lab space. HFSC claims the move would fit within its existing budget.

Board chair Nicole Casarez told city council members on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs committee the current location inside the Houston Police Department doesn't have enough space or the right electrical connections to handle additional equipment.

"The building is inadequate and flawed for the operation of a forensic lab,” Casarez said. “It was never designed to be a forensic lab, it was designed to be an office building."

Also speaking to the committee, CEO Peter Stout said the current location creates a perception problem that forensics is not independent of HPD.

"I've got analysts that sit on the stand every day having to answer questions about [the lab’s independence] because you walk into HPD's headquarters on the way to the laboratory," Stout said.

City council members were not immediately accepting of the idea, with some saying they were concerned with costs of leasing space downtown. Some members suggested partnering with the county to create a regional forensics center as a solution, which forensics officials said would create a lab too large to be efficient.

If approved, forensics could move as soon as next March.

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