Commissioners OK Search for More DNA Lab Space

In what could be the first step toward a regional crime lab, Harris County Commissioners have given the go-ahead officials to negotiate a lease for an overflow DNA lab. Health, science and technology reporter Carrie Feibel has more.

Currently, the county DNA lab is housed at The Institute for Forensic Sciences near the Medical Center, but because of a huge backlog of DNA cases, the District Attorney's Office says it needs more space and people to test evidence. It will begin negotiations for additional space at the Park Plaza Professional Building in the Museum District. District Attorney Pay Lycos says the number of DNA cases from the sheriff's office alone have risen 60-percent this year compared to last year.

"We're already at capacity and there's no way we can handle anything from the City of Houston or any other jurisdiction without expanding our lab. So, we need it just for the sake of Harris County. But if we do have this interim DNA lab, then we can begin taking cases from the City of Houston. And you know, they're swamped."

In late September, the commissioners could give the final nod to rent the space. If approved, the temporary lab could be up and running in six months. This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. 

"I think it's a big step. Certainly the court's on record saying, OK, we need to start moving and this is an interim step, because we're still a long way off from being able to fund the building itself, but by having a temporary location, it at least gets the backlog worked on, so that's important."
 
Eventually, Harris County and the City of Houston could opt to build a regional crime lab that would consolidate DNA testing and other forensics for the entire area.   

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...