HPD prepares to move tons of evidence

October 26, 2008 2:38:11 PM PDT
Keeping tabs on 20,000 guns is one of the details the Houston Police Department is dealing with as it prepares to move more than 1 million pieces of evidence from an aging warehouse to a new, $13.9 million state-of-the-art facility. To ensure a proper inventory, the department will use bar codes, scanning guns and wireless Internet to track items as they are taken from shelves and moved about 100 yards between the buildings' loading docks.

"For the safety and integrity of the evidence, we have to know where it is every step of the way," Capt. Victor Rodriguez said in Sunday's editions of the Houston Chronicle.

Rodriguez and a team of other officers and civilian employees have been preparing for about 18 months. The move itself is expected to take four to six months.

"When we move high-value items, there will be a significant law-enforcement presence, including a SWAT team or two," Rodriguez said. "We are going to move it and be quick about it. We are not going to want to expose ourselves to unnecessary risk."

The move could begin as soon as January and is expected to alleviate problems that have plagued the department over mishandling and losing evidence. Police say they expect the new cavernous building to greatly enhance their ability to safeguard evidence gathered by one of the nation's largest police forces.

The new building also will include more than 50 security cameras, high-security ballistic glass, panic buttons and multiple systems for checking the access and identification of personnel.

The current warehouse dates to the 1920s, is only partially air-conditioned and was once a windowpane factory.

The list of bulky items to be moved is staggering: about 10 tons of scrap metal, 700 gambling machines and nearly 1,000 bicycles, to name a few.

Three freezers hold 15,000 envelopes containing DNA evidence dating to the 1980s. They are kept for decades as officers look for breaks in cases and convicted criminals seek to prove their innocence.

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