Through fingerprints or DNA alone, previously unknown subjects (suspects, perpetrators, victims, and witnesses) can be identified. Using state-of-the-art equipment, firearms evidence and fingerprints from a crime scene in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, or San Bernardino can be tied to evidence in Las Vegas or Henderson, and vice-versa. A fingerprint or palm print recovered from a an abandoned explosive device, a firearm, interior of a stolen vehicle, or on an object from a bank or casino robbery can be processed locally and identified to subjects in a local or regional database, or in the FBI’s fingerprint databases that include millions of subjects. Samples of potential DNA from the same items can be matched to DNA profiles in the FBI’s National DNA Index System (NDIS) and Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) databases.
The Henderson and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) labs can determine the amount of alcohol in a person's blood as well as the type and quantity of other drugs in a person’s blood. They can identify hundreds of types of street drugs and other illicit or improperly used drugs/substances.
The situations mentioned here are just a brief example of the many types of information and other resources available through the work of local forensic laboratories; information and resources that help solve crimes, prevent crime, and save lives. Forensic laboratories have a direct role in keeping our communities safe.
Just as local law enforcement is an essential component in our defense against terrorist attacks and subsequent investigation; forensic laboratory analysis is a major factor our homeland security throughout Nevada and nationwide.
When forensic labs help solve and prevent crimes, law enforcement can shift the focus to other areas, other crimes, other criminals. The result is a dramatic increase in the effectiveness of law enforcement, or in other terms a huge "force multiplier" for law enforcement organizations.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security website states: “Our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels are the backbone of our nation’s domestic defense against terrorist attacks. They are this country’s eyes and ears on the ground, and the first line of detection and prevention. They are a vital partner in ensuring public safety, in every American community.”
State and local law enforcement in southern Nevada relies on forensic evidence analysis conducted primarily by two forensic laboratories. Both labs, the larger one operated by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the other in the City of Henderson, are staffed with “civilian” (non-sworn) employees, not police officers. Washoe County in Northern Nevada has the third publicly operated forensic laboratory in Nevada.
What often comes as a surprise to many, is that local civilian crime scene analysts/investigators (CSIs) are typically the primary persons to document and process crime scenes that have federal law enforcement jurisdiction such as bank robberies, bombings, etc. The FBI and ATF often participate in the investigation with local detectives, with the exception of the actual evidence collection and processing. Much of the evidence is subsequently sent to the local Forensic Laboratory (LVMPD or Henderson, depending on crime location) for additional processing, analysis, comparison, and possible identification to a particular person. The FBI, ATF and other federal agencies have their individual roles, and some evidence is forwarded to their own labs, but much of the evidence processing occurs in our local forensic labs.
Local forensic laboratories are indeed a key to our nation’s security and safety. Homeland security begins with our local municipal or county agencies.