The Arkansas State Crime Lab serves a vital role in law enforcement and criminal justice.
The lab provides services like toxicology, drug analysis, fingerprint identification, forensic pathology, and DNA analysis to state law enforcement agencies. Currently, the state crime lab in Little Rock handles almost all of the cases in Arkansas. The crime lab’s satellite facility in Hope helps to manage the caseload by handling drug analysis cases in South Arkansas. But nearly 40 percent of the drug and toxicology cases that the state crime lab processes are from the northwest part of the state.
This week, I had the pleasure of announcing that we will open a new crime lab in Lowell to increase the state’s ability to process and analyze data. And the good news is that the Arkansas State Police has made space available so we won’t need to construct a new building. I have designated state funds to build out and equip this facility, and I look forward to seeing it open in about seven months.
All over the nation, the caseload for crime labs is increasing. Statistics over the past five years indicate that the toxicology caseload is steadily increasing as well. The Little Rock laboratory does not have the physical infrastructure required to sustain this growth.
With a growing population in Northwest Arkansas, it makes sense to expand in this area. And although nearly 40 percent of the state’s drug and toxicology cases are from Northwest Arkansas, the Northwest Arkansas law enforcement agencies have been traveling to Little Rock to deliver and pick up evidence. In 2015, Northwest Arkansas law enforcement agencies submitted evidence to the crime lab in Little Rock 972 times.
Because of the distance, most law enforcement agencies travel to the Little Rock laboratory only once a month— creating bottlenecks for our court system and causing issues that often prevent speedy trials.
With a facility in Lowell, we can process more cases in less time, resulting in a more prompt judicial response.
But this new crime lab won’t just benefit Northwest Arkansas; the new crime lab will benefit the entire state. Not only will the lab alleviate the backlog of drug and toxicology cases in the region, but it will also allow the Little Rock crime lab more time to focus on homicide cases, providing closure to families and loved ones in a more timely manner.
My hope for this crime lab is that it will ultimately allow the state to provide better services for our courts, our law enforcement, and our citizens. The opening of this new lab is another example of how I am working to transform state government to be more efficient and to provide better service.