NEW WINDSOR—The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officially handed over a $10 million state-of-the-art regional crime lab at Stewart International Airport to the New York State Police on Nov. 9.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by Stewart Airport’s General Manager Ed Harrison, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, present and former Stewart Airport officials, crime lab managers, and members of the state police.
The Mid-Hudson regional lab boasts a full range of crime laboratory services, investigative assistance, forensic chemists and toxicologists, computerized data bases, and technical investigation specialists who assist with criminal investigations and evidence evaluation. It will provide controlled substance examinations and toxicology analyses for law enforcement agencies in the region, district attorneys, and courts.
Harrison emceed the ceremony and acknowledged the Port Authority’s “substantial investment” in exchange for policing services from the state police. “Now that the Port Authority’s work is complete, the real work begins.” He said the facility was completed on schedule and under budget.
State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said the crime lab, one of three satellite labs in the state, was more than five years in the making.
The drug chemistry staff analyzes more than 1200 cases for the presence of controlled substances. The lab supports work at a contaminated crime scene and emergency response efforts as well as investigations into suspected illegal drug labs.
D’Amico noted the toxicology section handles 400 cases annually—alcohol and drugs for DWI. The lab serves as an evidence drop off point for law enforcement throughout the Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island.
The lab presently processes 3500 submissions each year for area agencies. This includes firearms, fingerprints, and DNA. Evidence can be transported by state police to Albany so local law enforcement can continue to do their jobs in the community.
Forensic labs are complex structures. Circulation and contamination prevention, humidity and static control along with strict safety and security measures all have to be taken into account during the construction phases, D’Amico said.
Neuhaus said, “We are proud of this facility to be here. This is not a ‘NY-proud’ place, this is a ‘nation-wide-proud’ place.”
Safe and Secure
The Mid-Hudson lab will focus on drug evidence and toxicology. Lab Director Ray Wickenheiser gave a tour of the facility which will be fully operational in about a month after more instruments arrive.
Every aspect of the operation is to ensure maintenance of the “chain of custody” as evidence moves through the facility. “There are a lot of cameras and a lot of security making sure the integrity of evidence is always maintained,” Wickenheiser said.
The evidence room has epoxy counters and floors that ensure decontamination, a walk-in refrigerator for evidence that needs cool storage, and labeled shelves.
The building was designed with lots of natural light for specialists pouring over evidence for long periods of time. There are ten full air exchanges an hour in the 10,000 square foot facility.
The $10 million price tag does not include instrumentation, according to Wickenheiser. The instrument room houses the latest GCMS (gas chromatography mass spectrum) machines which separate, analyze, and identify molecules of suspect substances.
The lab works closely with the main lab in Albany to process 450 toxicology cases and 1250 drug chemistry cases a year. A meeting room is outfitted with a large screen and video link with Albany for meetings with scientists, training, management, and quality meetings.
Jolynn Cornwall, supervisor of forensic services, said “This is a gift. We are thrilled to continue to provide the services for the state police and for the local agencies.”
Other officials had good things to say about the new lab. Senator Bill Larkin applauded the collaboration that made it happen. “Cooperation and teamwork always produce positive results.”
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Pat Foye said, “The new crime lab advances the long-standing relationship between the New York State Police and Stewart Airport.”
“This new crime lab was carefully designed from the ground up to meet our current and future needs for processing evidence,” D’Amico said.
The New York crime lab system is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). All four labs have successfully completed accreditation inspections and in 2008 the crime lab system achieved international accreditation. CLS is considered one of the top publicly-funded labs in the country.
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