Photo: Assosicated Press, Photo Illustration by Matt Weir / The Collegian
On the Fresno State campus there’s a place where cutting-edge technology and science meet to help law enforcement agencies in their endless struggle against crime.
The Department of Justice Crime Laboratory opened in fall 2003 near the Science II building, across from the grassy knoll.
Ever since its inception, the crime lab has played an integral role in analyzing crime scene evidence for many local, state and federal police forces. From blood-alcohol analysis for the California Highway Patrol and the Fresno Police Department to other types of testing, such as DNA and weapons analysis, the crime lab has been beneficial in providing affordable and expert services in the field of Forensic Sciences.
The crime lab is an improvement of a previous facility that was located at the intersection of Cedar and Barstow avenues.
“The old facility wasn’t conducive and didn’t serve people working in the department and law enforcement,” Judy Tucker, professor of criminology, said. “They outgrew that and put weapons and other stuff there.”
The construction of the new lab has allowed local law enforcement agencies to rely on a quality system without having to pay an enormous amount of money for one located in another part of the country.
Criminology professor Gary Cortner said big areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles have their own labs, and Fresno was one area that didn’t.
“The reason the state expanded was to provide those services to areas that didn’t have it,” Cortner said.
In addition to doing work for local law enforcement, the lab has also assisted federal agencies with some of their cases. On occasion, agencies such as the DEA and the FBI have relied on the crime lab for its scientific expertise.
“We’ve done cases for the FBI and DEA⎯people that don’t want to wait for the services on the east coast,” Cortner said.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of the crime lab’s importance comes in the training of the next generation of forensic scientists and that is one of the most important roles the lab plays.
Since the lab is located on the campus of Fresno State, those students who are interested in a career in Forensic Sciences have a wonderful research outlet to utilize and learn from.
“It’s amazing,” Tucker said. “Biology students, chemistry students and forensic criminology students have a place where they can do internships, right here on campus.”
Cortner said the lab has been integral in assisting students with projects and internships.
The crime lab’s success has helped inspire similar facilities to be built on other college campuses. California State University, Los Angeles is another college that has one built on its grounds.
As long as the crime lab continues to assist with the solving of crimes by using state-of-the-art scientific technology, then its importance to the community will remain vital.
“I think we’ve provided some instrumental information about police work,” Cortner said. “I think it’s vital.”