Moultrie, Columbus crime labs may close - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Moultrie, Columbus crime labs may close

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

August 8, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Governor Sonny Perdue's order for six percent statewide budget cuts could affect south Georgia law enforcement. The GBI is proposing to close two crime labs in Columbus and Moultrie.

With crime rates climbing in Albany, Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba said the labs possible closure could be a hardship on the city, county, taxpayers, and other south Georgia law enforcement agencies. He's already making calls, trying to convince the GBI to change their mind.

Anytime investigators collect evidence from a crime scene it has to be processed at one of the GBI's eight crime labs. Two labs service 46 counties in southwest Georgia and it's those two labs that the GBI is considering closing.

"Seems like every time Atlanta wants to do something, it's always in south Georgia they try to hurt," says Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba.  

Saba says if the lab in Moultrie and the newly refurbished lab in Columbus are closed it will be an added cost for everyone in southwest Georgia. "That's going to be our problem, when we send this material in to the crime lab, it might be months before we get it back. That means we've got to keep that subject in jail until his court case comes up."

He's already called the state's Sheriff's association and is calling on state representatives to see if something can be done.

Representative Freddie Powell Sims said last year the Department of Human Resources reversed their decision to close southwest Georgia's only health lab after some convincing and expects south Georgia's delegation to be talking with everyone they can to get this decision reversed.

"The important word to remember here is proposed, and that gives us a lot of room to work with," Sims said. "I'm not the only one who's going to be working we've got a delegation and everybody in that delegation will be working to make sure that this does not happen."

According to the GBI the Moultrie and Columbus labs were selected for closure because the work load at the two labs is less than other locations. Macon is the next closest lab if Moultrie and Columbus are closed.

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