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Utah’s crime lab helps solve tough cases

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Posted at 10:12 PM, Aug 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-19 00:12:13-04

SALT LAKE CITY – As part of National Forensic Science Week, scientists showed off the state of Utah’s state of the art crime lab.

Jay Henry is the lab director at the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Crime Lab, and he said they are the only full service forensic laboratory in the state, and he said they are accredited to international standards.

The lab has a crime scene response team that is available 24/7, and they respond to crimes across the state. Mike Hepworth is a senior forensics chemist at the lab, and he said they test controlled substances. He said keeping up with synthetic drugs can be a challenge.

"The emerging trends on controlled substances is the synthetic compounds, everyone refers to them as spice, but it's a new challenge for us because they're compounds that are being changed all the time to stay ahead of the law,” he said. “And so our job is to identify these new compounds, inform the legislature so the legislature can schedule and control those substances."

The lab also helps solve cold cases. Official said the crime lab helps solve about one crime each week that was previously unsolved.

"Our DNA database recently surpassed one hundred thousand samples from offenders, and that's allowed us to solve over 300 cases that were unsolvable prior to having the DNA testing done,” Henry said.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety said they are working on combining resources into one energy-efficient building and plans for a new $36 million crime lab are underway.

"For law enforcement, for prosecutors, for anybody in the criminal justice system, this will represent one stop shopping for laboratories,” Henry said of the proposed lab.

Utah also has two satellite labs in Ogden and Cedar City as well as three partner labs in Murray, Cottonwood Heights and Salt Lake City.