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/

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

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:


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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: 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.


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Photo © aruba2000 –

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:


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Photo © filipemfrazao –

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:


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