Police Storage Rooms: A Treasury of The Unexpected

If you’ve watched the TV show “CSI,” you know that the police property room can play a vital role in establishing guilt or innocence. Proper storage – climate control, contamination control, and custody — is an essential part of a well-run property room. Occasionally, however, property room managers have to find storage for unexpected items, far beyond the usual blood samples and weapons.

In Sarasota Springs, Florida, for example, a tour of the property room uncovers:

  • A statue of the Virgin Mary
  • An odd-shaped sculpture affectionately known as “Dominick.”
  • A stone lawn jockey

In Los Angeles, the UCLA campus police are storing, among all the lost purses and unidentified dorm keys:

  • Frozen poisoned fish
  • A bicycle with a hidden sword

The Los Angeles Police Department has equally odd items:

  • A stuffed armadillo
  • Fruit and nuts
  • Garden hoses and fishing rods

Police departments have to keep track of everything stored, and maintain it all in exactly the same condition it was received. This is where the storage experts come in, with custody-tracking systems and high density storage that can accommodate all the odd shapes, sizes, and types of property or evidence that is collected as part of a case.

No matter what is stored, each item tells a story. We’d love to hear the story behind the poisoned fish, and we’d love to hear about your unusual storage challenges too. Let us know what your story is!

 

Photo © Minerva Studio/Fotolia.com

The Law of Unintended Consequences: Gun Storage

The Supreme Court recently upheld a federal law requiring the confiscation of guns in cases of domestic violence. This ruling created a perplexing question for police departments across the country: Where to store all the confiscated guns?

In some states – California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, for example – guns are confiscated at the time of arrest, long before a case ever goes to court. They must all be held in the property room pending the outcome of the trial. Under North Carolina law, seized guns are only destroyed if they are non-working or missing a serial number; they may be sold, but selling them has proven to be an unpopular option, and the accumulation of unclaimed guns has only added to the burden of property room supervisors.

Unlike other forms of property held by the police, confiscated guns represent a significant risk to the public and to law enforcement if not stored with complete security. Even if a property room has the space, just adding shelves and bins is not an adequate storage solution. As storage consultants know, guns must be stored in specialized secure lockers in order to keep them out of the hands of unauthorized individuals.

Good intentions sometimes have unintended consequences, and police departments are learning what those consequences mean for their property rooms. If you’re managing a property room, talk to a storage pro about additional gun lockers.

 

Photo © aijohn784/Fotolia.com

When Gun Storage Fails

No one would dispute the need to store guns safely and account for them properly. Whether the lawful gun owners are private citizens, law enforcement agencies, or the military, their unsecured weapons can fall into the wrong hands and threaten public safety and innocent lives. A case in point – the recent theft of guns from the Army Reserve Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Authorities discovered more than 16 weapons, ranging from handguns to M4 rifles, had been stolen during a break-in. An FBI spokesperson stated that there was no evidence of links to terrorist activity, and added that the stolen guns have now been placed on a list of missing weapons maintained by the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Once stolen weapons enter the black market they are often used in criminal activity.

This incident underscores the need for secure gun storage, especially in settings such as police stations or military installations where there are large arsenals of weapons. Firearms best practices calls for a combination of secure racking storage and a weapons tracking system to inventory and track firearms assets.

 

Photo © Dani Simmonds – Fotolia

Back from the Dead Files: Vintage Police Photographs

When Los Angeles Police Department reserve officer Merrick Morton and LAPD historian Lt. John Thomas began researching historic criminology photos, they didn’t expect to find a treasure trove of stunning black-and-white images dating back to the 1920’s, stored in the vast 47,500 square foot Los Angeles City Records Center. The LAPD’s Special Investigations Division was the nation’s first crime lab – the precursor of CSI – and photography was a standard part of their forensics procedures as far back as 1925. Hundreds of boxes of case files, each with their accompanying evidence photos, were discovered in the Records Center, and Morton and Thomas have now preserved some of the best images as noir style art photos.

These photographs recorded events ranging from the Onion Field murder of an L.A. police officer, to the arrest of the notorious Manson family. Now they are considered to be exceptional examples of historical art. Selected examples were included in the prestigious Paris Photo exhibition, and prints can be seen online at Morton’s gallery. These extraordinary images could easily have been lost or destroyed if not for the efforts of Morton, Thomas, and the dedicated document storage pros of the L.A. City Records Center.

Photo © aruba2000

Police Cameras: Unintended Consequences of New Technology

As more and more police departments begin using body cameras, no one would dispute that the tiny video devices are making a positive difference in the behavior of police officers and suspects alike. What very few advocates considered was the management of mountains of video footage.

Lindsey Miller, senior research associate at the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Wall Street Journal recently, “The cameras themselves aren’t overly expensive, but the years and years of data storage you’re going to deal with—that can definitely be cost-prohibitive.” While some police departments store video for one or two months, others retain it for two or more years. Every video recording from every camera must be reviewed, organized, and stored securely, and police departments are spending unexpectedly large sums for digital storage and the personnel to manage it.

The numbers add up quickly: The Oakland Police Department records five to six terabytes of data each month, the equivalent of nearly 1,500 movie downloads. In Los Angeles, the cost of police video data maintenance and storage is estimated at $7 million annually. Other police departments around the country are scrambling to get up to speed in data storage technology, but their mandate “to serve and protect” didn’t include training in video data management. Guiding the management and storage of this highly sensitive data is really best left to the experienced storage professionals.

 

Photo © aijohn784 – Fotolia

What the FBI Says About Evidence Storage and Cold Cases

[image]-Crime Scene

The FBI’s CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) helps local law enforcement identify suspects by comparing DNA evidence to DNA profiles in the CODIS database. It is a powerful tool for clearing cold cases, but now defense attorneys routinely look for a break in the chain of evidence, hoping to rule out a DNA match linking their client to a crime. If a property room cannot prove that DNA was properly stored and properly secured, the evidence becomes suspect and a judge may summarily dismiss the case.

Added to chain-of-evidence issues are changes in state laws requiring retention of DNA evidence for longer periods, as well as increases in the length of the statute of limitations. Writing in the FBI’s “Focus On Forensics,” William Kiley discusses how CODIS and statutory changes place great pressure on property rooms where space, security, and environmental controls are a challenge (http://1.usa.gov/1DzUwQJ). It’s a complex problem, and the solutions aren’t always readily apparent. Luckily, there are high-density storage systems with security controls designed specifically for long-term evidence storage. Even more important, the experts at Systematics can help explain the options.

 

Got questions? We’ve got answers…

 

Photo © igor – Fotolia

Crime Labs: Victims of Success

The hit television series “CSI” performs miracles of forensic science every week, solving complex crimes in each one-hour episode. The real world is a little different: Across the country, crime labs are drowning in backlogged cases. Forensic science has become so good at identifying perpetrators that today’s crime lab reports often play a critical role in helping to convict or clear a suspect. The result of this success is that every crime scene is now producing vast quantities of fingerprints, fibers, and DNA, all of which must be analyzed by crime labs that are often facing a months-long backlog.

Maintaining the integrity of the evidence while it awaits analysis is vital to an accurate forensic result. Contaminated DNA or smudged fingerprints can ruin a case. This is where a professionally designed storage system can support the efforts of overworked CSI professionals, and it’s a design niche that requires specialists. Writing in Forensic Magazine, Susan Halla and Cy Henningsen outline some of the storage options for keeping evidence safely stored until the lab technicians can analyze it: http://bit.ly/1oJZoNt.

 

Got questions? We’ve got answers…

 

Photo © Aleksandar Mijatovic – Fotolia.com

Vintage Police Photographs from the LAPD’s Storage Archives

When Los Angeles Police Department reserve officer Merrick Morton and LAPD historian Lt. John Thomas began researching historic criminology photos, they didn’t expect to find a treasure trove of stunning black-and-white images dating back to the 1920’s, systematically stored in the vast 47,500 square foot Los Angeles City Records Center. The LAPD’s Special Investigations Division was the nation’s first crime lab – the precursor of CSI – and photography was a standard part of their forensics procedures as far back as 1925. Hundreds of boxes of case files, each with their accompanying evidence photos, were discovered in the Records Center, and Morton and Thomas have now preserved some of the best images as noir style art photos.

Recording events ranging from the Onion Fields gangster killings to the arrest of the notorious Manson family, these photographs are considered to be exceptional examples of historical art. Selected examples were recently included in the prestigious Paris Photo exhibition, and prints can be seen at Morton’s gallery: http://www.fototeka.com/lapd/index.html. These extraordinary images could easily have been lost or destroyed if not for the efforts of Morton, Thomas, and the dedicated document storage pros of the L.A. City Records Center.

 

Got questions? We’ve got answers…

 

Photo © aruba2000 – Fotolia.com

When A Good Storage System Can Be A Matter Life And Death

When police investigators examine a crime, they collect bits and pieces of evidence by the dozen, everything from DNA evidence to the proverbial “smoking gun.” Every item has to be catalogued and stored for the use of detectives and courts, and without a well-organized high density storage system, key evidence can go missing. In cases involving capital murder, missing evidence can send the wrong person to death row, or set a murderer free. Evidence expert John Vasquez discusses several such cases in a story for The Austin Chronicle, including that of accused murderer Hank Skinner and the blood-stained jacket that could exonerate him, or send him to death row – a jacket which has disappeared from the police evidence room: http://bit.ly/1mAK3h0

 

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Photo © filipemfrazao – Fotolia.com

Law Enforcement Takes To The Air – Without A Pilot

Police evidence rooms are notoriously overcrowded, and finding additional storage space is always a challenge.  Adding storage racks right up to the ceiling can be a great space solution where the building codes permit, but it creates another problem – how to get to those hard to reach upper racks without the safety liability of ladders. Here’s how one police department solved both those problems: http://bit.ly/1j2vQVB

 

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