The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

January 27, 2014

Ohio State Highway Patrol lab expands, reduces drug case backlog

COLUMBUS — With a larger staff and more space after an expansion, the State Highway Patrol’s crime lab is processing drug evidence more quickly and reducing a backlog that grew to thousands of cases as troopers focused more on crimes such as drug trafficking and had more evidence in need of testing.

The speedup is viewed as good news for prosecutors and other authorities, who were sometimes waiting five months or more for results confirming the types of drugs involved in certain cases.

Col. Paul Pride, who became the patrol’s superintendent last year, called such turnaround times “absolutely unacceptable.”

“The last thing we want to do is arrest (suspects) and then not finish it up and not complete the deal,” Pride said. “We’ve had that happen before.”

The backlog peaked at around 4,600 cases in August 2012, and the average processing time was a little less than five months, according to the patrol. It said the backlog is closer to about 1,500 cases now, with a turnaround time of roughly three months.

The agency hopes eventually to shrink that average to less than one month.

The facility, which also includes a toxicology lab that processes thousands more tests annually, handled more than 8,300 drug evidence submissions in 2010. That rose to more than 13,000 last year, much of it marijuana, said Capt. David Dicken, a director at the lab.

Most of what comes in has been seized by troopers, but the lab also does some testing for other law enforcement agencies.

Dicken said the lab was so overwhelmed that he and another officer had to rearrange storage spaces on their own to squeeze in more drug evidence.

“These are good problems to have... because we’re making Ohio safer by doing what we’re doing,” Dicken said. “We just want to do it a little quicker.”

To ease the backlog, the patrol added staff at the lab and, using mostly seized assets and grant money, it updated its space and equipment.

It hired a dozen chemists over the past three years, including nine for the drug-testing side, bringing the facility’s current staff to 27, Dicken said.

The facility grew by about one-third in an expansion that was finished late last year and totaled nearly $1.5 million, not including equipment.

Supervisors added lab and office space and bought more work stations and new analytical equipment.

Their latest addition, a testing machine that arrived this month, fits nicely with troopers’ efforts to crack down on impaired driving.

It will allow analysts to test for more types of drugs, even in extremely small blood samples, lab director Joey Jones said.

The testing menu of 10 classes of drugs, including marijuana and generic opiates, could grow to 30, with additions such as prescription painkillers and synthetics, he said.

Lab staff also found ways to shave time off their work.

The chemists have swit-ched to a paperless process to record their work, and they’ve partnered with a Circleville court to provide testimony by video link instead of driving there in person.

Dicken said the agency would like to expand that idea to other patrol staff and other courts.

Franklin County Prose-cutor Ron O’Brien said he has noticed an improvement in the turnaround for both drug and toxicology tests at the patrol lab. And faster results can mean faster prosecutions.

“Any delay is not conducive to moving the case forward through the system,” O’Brien said.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Lordstown eyes fall rollout of updated Cruze

    Production of the updated Chevrolet Cruze is tentatively set to begin early this fall at the General Motors facility in Lordstown, a plant official confirmed.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • A year after background check defeat, modest goals

    Democratic worries about this November’s elections, a lack of Senate votes and House opposition are forcing congressional gun-control supporters to significantly winnow their 2014 agenda, a year after lawmakers scuttled President Barack Obama’s effort to pass new curbs on firearms.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • College Board provides a glimpse of new SAT

    Anxious students — not to mention their parents — can get a heads-up for how the redesigned SAT might look in two years.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Poll finds Clinton trouncing entire GOP field

    Hillary Clinton isn’t only the strong front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but she’s well ahead of every potential Republican rival, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.
     

    April 16, 2014

  • Ukraine bares teeth against eastern uprising

    In the first Ukrainian military action against a pro-Russian uprising in the east, government forces repelled an attack Tuesday by about 30 gunmen at an airport, beginning what the president called an “anti-terrorist operation” to try to restore authority over the restive region.
     

    April 16, 2014

  • U.N. Security Council sees grim images of Syrian dead

    The U.N. Security Council fell silent Tuesday after ambassadors viewed a series of ghastly photographs of dead Syrian civil war victims, France’s ambassador said. The pictures showed people who were emaciated, with their bones protruding, and some bearing the marks of strangulation and repeated beatings, and eyes having been gouged out.

    April 16, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia causing Ukraine unrest

    The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but suggested that President Barack Obama has not yet concluded that Vladimir Putin’s actions warrant broader sanctions on key Russian economic sectors.

    April 15, 2014

  • Woman arrested after dead babies found

    A Utah woman accused of killing seven babies she gave birth to over 10 years was arrested Sunday after police discovered the tiny bodies stuffed in separate cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home.

    April 14, 2014

  • Rome man killed in crash

    The Ohio State Highway Patrol Chardon Post is investigating a fatal crash that took place just after midnight Sunday.

    April 14, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video