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Southern Nevada has a Critical Shortage in Forensic Evidence Analysis and Crime Scene Processing Capability

A second, and better equipped crime lab is necessary for one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the U.S.

There is only one full-service crime lab in southern Nevada. That lab is operated by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). LVMPD does as much as can be expected with a laboratory of its size, and does it well. However, a single lab does not have the capacity to support the entire region, and to do otherwise is not a reasonable or practical expectation. It is important to note that the LVMPD laboratory is in a leased facility, rather than a publicly-owned facility.

The City of Henderson operates a small crime laboratory in a temporary facility with some of the most qualified forensic scientists in the country. The lab is limited due to significant restrictions in space and personnel who can operate in the small temporary building.

Due in large part to the recent advances in forensic technology and crime scene investigation, there are unique processes available today, that were not possible a decade ago. Processes that can now help identify suspects (and their victims when necessary) much faster and more reliabily. These critical state-of-the-art processes and techniques start from the first response to a scene by patrol officers; to subsequent crime scene investigation, evidence collection, and forensic evidence processing/analysis.

Blood alcohol, narcotics, DNA, and other forensic analyses; crime scene processing; and other forensic capabilities are critically limited in Clark County and Southern Nevada. Gun shot residue analysis (scanning electron microscopy) is conducted out-of-state.

There is one additional publicly funded/operated forensic laboratory in Nevada. It is managed by the Washoe County Sheriff, in Reno, Nevada.

In contrast to the limited forensic laboratory capability in Nevada, the U.S. Department of Justice's 2005 Census report (released in 2008) reported that there were a total of 389 publicly funded crime labs in the U.S.

As of March 2009, there were 362 laboratories accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). The list includes 183 state laboratories, 117 local agency laboratories, 22 federal laboratories, 12 international (non U.S.) laboratories, and 28 private.

The LVMPD and Washoe County labs are accredited. The City of Henderson crime lab is not yet accreditated (as of 8-22-09).

In comparison to Nevada, the State of Utah with a similar population, has 4 ASCLD/LAB accredited forensic crime labs; Idaho, with a population smaller than the Las Vegas Valley has 3; Arizona has 8; New Mexico 3; and California has 33 (17 of them in areas with populations smaller than Clark County, 7of those are in cities smaller than Henderson).

Southern Nevada needs a state-of-the-art facility to house a modern, full-service Forensic Crime Lab, to complement the LVMPD and small Henderson PD crime labs. This is a necessity, not a luxury. We need facilities to house equipment and personnel, and to develop or improve the following critical services for our residents, businesses and visitors: 

  • DNA evidence collection
  • DNA evidence processing and analysis
  • Crime Scene Investigation (current crime scene processing capabilities are extremely limited)
  • Blood/alcohol analysis
  • Illegal narcotics and substance analysis
  • Firearms evidence examination and comparison
  • Gunshot residue collection and analysis (currently sent out of State; analysis is not available in Nevada)
  • Fingerprint processing and database search
  • Fingerprint comparison and identification
  • Arson evidence analysis
  • Trace evidence analysis
  • Microscopic evidence analysis
  • Evidence handling and storage
  • Questioned document examination
  • Computer Forensics analysis
  • Vehicle and major case evidence processing (current capabilities limited)
  • Digital photo processing
  • Audio and video evidence processing and analysis
  • Training and research

The large portion of the evidence related to crimes that occur in southern Nevada is not analyzed because we do not have adequate facilities, equipment or staffing. Much of the potential forensic evidence is often not collected for the same reasons. We have only one opportunity to recover and analyze evidence in most cases.



"Laboratories Accredited by ASCLD/LAB", American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD/LAB), referenced March 2009.

"Census of Public Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories, 2005", U.S. Department of Justice, July 2008.

Note: By reviewing the following document, you will leave the portion of this website that contains navigation links. Depending on the settings on your particular computer, you may need to hit your browser's back button in order to return to this page. Click here for a link to the PDF "Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories, 2005"

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2005 projected populations from www.factfinder.census.gov

Image Credit: The President's DNA Initiative - Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology, www.dna.gov
  Graphic of DNA The Molecule of Life  

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) "The Molecule of Life"

Forensic DNA analysis on saliva, skin tissue, blood, hair, and semen is used to link criminals to crimes in sexual assaults, homicides, and other crimes; prevent future crimes; solve cold cases; and exonerate the innocent.

Source: www.dna.gov

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