LOWELL, Ark. (KFSM) -- Relief is on the way for a backlog at the Arkansas State Crime Lab, as the Northwest Arkansas campus will soon open.
The Lowell crime lab will be the third crime lab in Arkansas. The lab will share the space with the new Arkansas State Police Troop L Headquarters.
“The reason it`s really needed in this part of the state is about 36% of all the drug and tox cases from the entire state actually come from this region,” Kermit Channell said.
The Lowell Crime Lab will be doing drug and toxicology work which is something State Crime Lab Director Kermit Channell said is desperately needed. He said this will not only help this part of the state but will help the crime lab be more efficient across the all of Arkansas because right now they are backed up.
“We get about close to 23,000 drug cases alone every year. So, as a laboratory system, we get about 32,000, so you can really see that the drug epidemic is alive and well in Arkansas,” he said.
Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder also serves on the state crime lab board. He said it will be great to not have to ship or drive that evidence to Little Rock. He said right now they have an all-time record number of inmates waiting on their court dates.
“I`m guardedly optimistic that this is really going to help us. I just don`t see how it can`t help speed up that process which is a benefit to the jail, my employees, to the people who are sitting there waiting for trial, for the courts, for prosecutors and public defenders, it`s a win,” Helder said.
Channell said they will have chemists in Lowell who will be able to process cases and the days of having to send one from Little Rock to Northwest Arkansas will be over with.
“Now we`ll have that chemists up here in this area to testify, so they`ll be spending more time on the bench, so when they are spending more time on the bench they are more efficient, we`re getting more cases out in a timely fashion which is critical,” he said.
Construction will be complete on the new lab at the end of July, but they won't be able to start processing cases here until September.
The crime lab facility is 10,000 square feet and will be staffed with eight people.