PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For years, Allegheny County’s crime lab suffered from a lack of funding, staff and resources; and as a result, some violent criminals were never prosecuted.
But now, the situation has changed because of a new, state-of-the-art lab with technology you might see on shows like “CSI.”
The old lab – deep in the bowels of the County Office Building – was dirty, cramped and technologically-challenged, but that’s all changed.
“This is a modern, truly state-of-the-art crime lab facility and there are few equals in any jurisdictions in the United States,” said Dr. Karl Williams, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner.
In its sprawling new home, the new lab is chock full of eye-popping instruments that have allowed a team of forensic scientists to live on the cutting edge of crime scene analysis.
“We have been given a brand new, technologically up-to-date crime lab for what are an extraordinary good crew of scientists,” said Dr. Williams.
In the old lab, ballistics experts had to fire weapons into phone books; now, they fire into a water tank.
Technicians compare the slugs to those found at crime scenes or taken from a murder victim.
Over in another section, scientists use an electronic scanning microscope to determine if a suspect fired the gun. The evidence is obtained with something call a stub.
“You simply you open this up and you touch this at the front and the back of the hand,” Dr. Williams explained. “The idea is that any particles from the gunshot will appear on this and then this is what we submit to the scanning electron microscope.”
The crime lab has cleared up a backlog of crime evidence by performing DNA analysis on those samples – using new technology like a sample sorter.
“Last week, one of my analysts was able to analyze 62 DNA samples in a week,” he added.
The evidence leads to convictions. But unlike television shows like CSI, the forensic scientists work with police on the investigations and don’t make arrests.
“No, they don’t wear Versace; and no, they don’t carry weapons; and no, they don’t come back here and do analysis and go out and shoot and investigate people,” said Dr. Williams.