Valdosta Daily Times

August 31, 2013

New digital system aids police to improve tracking of evidence

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Through his vehicle’s computer, Valdosta Police Sgt. Jay Wolfe can let the department’s evidence custodian, or the Valdosta-Lowndes County Crime Lab, or any partnering agency know he has taken evidence from a crime scene into his custody.

VPD Evidence Custodian Jill Chammoun will know to expect Wolfe soon to place the evidence into the department’s custodial care.

Meanwhile, if Chammoun, or Wolfe, or another patrolman, detective, or criminologist, or other partnering law-enforcement officer needs to check on the status of that piece of evidence, they can do so via the Valdosta Police Department’s latest computer software program. They cannot check out the evidence. It remains secure, but they can quickly find out its status in terms of testing, etc.

STARLIMS is a laboratory information management system. It should make the VPD and other area law-enforcement agencies more efficient while pushing the department closer to becoming a paperless organization, said Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress.

In the past, officers filled out evidence information on a paper form. The officer then traveled back immediately with this paperwork attached to the evidence. Now, the officer assigns the evidence to its proper case number, crime type, and details the type of evidence to expect, Wolfe said.

In the past, for example, Chammoun may not have known what had been placed in an evidence locker until she opened it. With this new system, if something is placed in the evidence locker overnight, the evidence custodian can look at the STARLIMS reports and know the evidence is blood or biological materials, for example. She will know to put on gloves before retrieving it from the evidence locker to be properly inventoried.

While officers can file this information before leaving the crime scene, they are still expected to return immediately to the VPD’s Toombs Street

headquarters to place materials into an evidence locker.

The police chief said STARLIMS is another step in decreasing the amount of paper used within the department, which is part of a City of Valdosta campaign to rely more on digital records rather than actual paper. In recent months, the VPD has also digitized its police reports. As an example, Times reporters daily checked carbon copies of police reports physically at the VPD HQ for decades. Now, the VPD emails PDF copies of reports directly to The Times and other media outlets.

STARLIMS is also another step in acquiring American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors accreditation for the joint City of Valdosta/Lowndes County regional crime laboratory, Childress said.