ISP crime labs continue facing backlog due to increase in drug cases

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana State Police crime labs are getting more cases than scientists can handle and its creating a backlog.

When a police agency confiscates drugs, they are sent to one of the state’s four labs. Then, scientists test the chemical compounds to determine what the drug is specifically.

Most of the cases submitted last year were sent over to the Drug Unit. Their, 19 scientists are getting inundated with more drug cases. In 2014, 10,222 cases were submitted to the Drug Unit. In 2018, it jumped to 15,992.

In its 2018 Annual Report, ISP says the increase of submissions and the increased complexities of analysis have resulted in an uptick in the drug backlog. From 2014 to 2018, the backlog went up by 550 percent. More than 6,800 cases were not completed by the Drug Unit last year.

“We are at capacity,” said Captain David Bursten with ISP. “We are getting more cases than we can turnaround.”

Captain Bursten said ISP recognizes changes need to be made since they do not have the room to hire more scientists. Caseloads overall have increased every year since 2014.

“Many of these analysis can take weeks to complete because of the different processes,” he said.

Their scientists at the Drug Unit cannot keep up. Roughly 5,700 more cases were submitted in 2018 in comparison to four years earlier.

“It’s very concerning that many people have so little regard for their health,” said Captain Bursten.

The report said it now takes their Drug Unit scientists an average of nearly seven months to complete a case.

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said he’s having to delay drug trials because of the backlog which means a dealer could bail out and be back on the streets for months before a conviction.

“We would much rather get their cases closed more rapidly so we can have appropriate supervision for those people,” Eaton said.

To reduce the backlog, $30 million will be spent on capital improvement projects at Fort Wayne, Lowell, and Evansville Regional Laboratories. Captain Bursten expects they will start breaking ground this summer.

“We are trying to build them for the future so we don’t run out of space so soon,” he said.

The number of rush cases to meet court deadlines also increased for the Drug Unit. ISP said they make every effort to get those results as soon as possible.

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