New Property Room Erases Police Problems of Past
by: Pat Hernandez, June 18, 2009 10:06:38 pm
The new Houston Police Department Property Room on Washington just west of downtown, is adjacent to the old one it replaces. Mayor Bill White says the facility will help keep our city safe while insuring fairness to those accused of crime.
"Prosecutors and those who investigate crimes, and those who are witnesses to crime, find that having evidence of crime that has a proper chain of custody that's been properly stored that could be retrieved when ready for trial, is indispensable. It ensures those suspects accused of crime, or those convicted who have remedy to post judgment, remedies provided under habeas corpus, that they have evidence that could be fairly used by those who seek to defend."
Mayor White says the 13.2-million dollar property room is part of a massive capital and technology improvement program that's being undertaken to assure Houston has the most productive, professional police force in the country.
"That's a nightmare; this is a dream come true."
That's Police Chief Harold Hurtt. He has a wish for what he'd like to see happen to the soon-to-be vacated old property room.
"One of the things that I would really like to see happen to the old building there is to be torn down and replaced with a new, independent DNA lab, a crime lab. And all they have to do is punch a hole in the wall, and be able to transfer evidence from the DNA lab right into property here and really maintain custody, and have it in place for court."
After the ribbon cutting, Hurtt presented the first piece of evidence to be stored that pertains to an on-going robbery investigation. Amenities in the new property room include high-density shelving and climate control features, like a giant freezer to maintain evidence. Hurtt was asked what assurances were in place to eliminate a repeat of problems that plagued the inadequate storing of evidence in the past.
"In every case, the primary issues that you want to look out for when you have property: drugs, money, guns.And we have built in a system here to protect all three. And not only from the facility standpoint, but also our processes, our procedures and accountability. This is really a giant step forward in ensuring that the public and the criminal justice system can have confidence in HPD."
Each piece of property will be tagged with a radio frequency to allow easy access and retrieval without moving another object.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.