ALBANY, GA (WALB) - South Georgia lawmakers say they're working to find money in the state budget to save the crime lab in Moultrie, but that's an uphill battle. Law enforcers say if the GBI closes the lab next month as planned, it will hamper their investigations.
The parking lot at the Moultrie crime lab will remain empty after the state shuts it down in March. Cpl. Dave Underwood with the Moultrie Police Department says his agency uses the crime lab to solve rape and homicide cases, and determines blood alcohol content levels from DUI's. Now investigators will have to hand deliver evidence to Macon.
"It adds more of a load to that crime lab and it will take longer to get the evidence and results we need," said Cpl. Underwood. "We won't send one at a time and we will wait until we have several cases."
It slows down the process of getting evidence back that can be used in court. He also worries about protecting the chain of custody and integrity of evidence when it's not going straight to the Moultrie lab.
GBI spokesperson John Bankhead says the state must consolidate crime labs. He says the southern region is short 54 scientists. There's not enough money to hire more and keep the labs open.
Along with Moultrie, crime labs in Columbus and Summerville are expected to close. Senator John Bulloch says he hasn't given up on the lab yet. He should know in the next few weeks whether there will be money to keep it open. Bulloch says the lab currently employs fewer than 10 people – down from about 20 when it was fully staffed.