DPD Makes Improvements to Its Crime Scene Unit

Dallas' real-life "CSI" using some new methods

Dallas' crime-scene investigation unit is using make some changes aimed at saving time and reducing crime.

Unlike the flashy "CSI" TV shows, the Dallas Police Department's Crime Scene Response Section has been using some low-tech methods.

"We've been working on this for a number of years," Deputy Chief Craig Miller said. "It's finally coming to fruition, and everybody's really excited about the potential this program has."

Miller briefed the City Council Public Safety Committee on several changes in the unit this week.

Previously, digital photographs gathered at a scene were put on CDs and sent to detectives by hand, sometimes at distant substations.

The Dallas unit has just started using a software program to share crime scene photos immediately on a computer network.

"This way, we're going to be able to quickly disseminate the information to those detectives throughout the city who need that data quicker," said Ron Everett, forensic services administrator.

The unit is based at police headquarters on South Lamar Street with 74 officers and civilians who gather and analyze evidence, including fingerprints, for the entire city.

There can be long delays sending experts to crime scenes.

"Especially if it's rush hour traffic in the morning or the evening or there's a wreck on the freeway, yeah, it's tough," said detective Dan Town, a crime-scene evidence expert.

Now, patrol officers who volunteer will be trained and equipped to take basic photos and fingerprints at minor property crime scenes when they respond to write a report instead of wait for experts to arrive for the task.

"We want to make it so that citizens don't have to wait an unnecessary time, and then [that] we don't keep patrol officers -- at the same time -- tied up at a crime scene," Miller said.

Officials hope that more people gathering evidence from more crime scenes faster could increase the number of cases cleared and perhaps improve the chance that stolen property is returned.

"That's our goal, is to help the detectives clear these cases, recover the property and to help the victims," Everett said.

Police figures show the overall Dallas crime rate was down about 10 percent through March 31, on top of reductions in each of the past several years.

Department brass hope measures such as the crime-scene procedures will help keep the trend going.

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