Welsh forces launch joint scientific investigation unit

South Wales Police and Gwent Police have teamed up to create a joint hi-tech scientific investigation unit that will save more than £1m in public money and provide a better service to victims of crime.

Apr 12, 2012
By Paul Jacques

South Wales Police and Gwent Police have teamed up to create a joint hi-tech scientific investigation unit that will save more than £1m in public money and provide a better service to victims of crime.

New technology will cut finger and footprint analysis time from six days to two hours while it has also become the only police investigation unit in the UK capable of conducting glass investigation.

The single Centre of Excellence, which is working towards ISO accreditation, consists of staff from both forces and will be located in Bridgend at the South Wales Police headquarters site and also at Rumney police station in Cardiff.

It follows the closure of the Government-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS), which was finally wound up last month.

Ian Brewster, who is heading up the new unit, said it has top-of-the-range equipment and facilities with skills and services that many other UK police forces cannot provide.

He said the collaboration will give South Wales Police and Gwent Police maximum benefits from pooling resources and increasing capacity, resilience and the range of services offered to police officers and major crime teams.

“This new unit will save in excess of £1 million pounds due to rationalisation of jobs in the new joint establishment and in-sourcing of forensic analytical examinations, which was previously carried out by external commercial companies,” said Mr Brewster.

“Drug examination, glass examination and footwear examination will all be done in-house, therefore providing a faster service to our police officers and major crime departments.

“We will no longer need to send drug seizures to London to be tested which will save money and time, as well as enabling our officers to swiftly charge criminals rather than bailing them back into the community.

“Not only will it save a huge amount of money, it will also be the only police scientific investigation unit in the UK that can do glass investigation and we are one of only three forces in the UK to have a metal vacuum disposition room with half-a-million pound technology which is vital for recovering latent fingerprint impressions in certain circumstances.”

Mr Brewster said that traditionally, the out-sourcing of glass examination to commercial companies had been very expensive and as a result, only cases meeting specific criteria could be sent for examination.

“Many crimes in South Wales and Gwent result in glass being smashed, for example, burglaries and thefts of, or from, motor vehicles,” he explained. “The new laboratory will ensure that the glass from more crimes will be examined, resulting in more offenders being brought to justice.

“The footwear identification unit processes 22,000 custody submissions a year for footwear analysis, these prints are subsequently compared with footwear impressions recovered from crimes scenes. This is a new department which is now working on an impressive scale.

“Our crime scene investigators (CSIs) can now remotely send fingerprints and footprints from their offices to the fingerprint identification unit in Bridgend, therefore cutting the process from six days to two hours. The joint unit is also currently investing in technology that will allow CSIs to remotely send this type of evidence direct from their police vehicles at the crime scene, therefore dramatically speeding up the process even more. We will be able to tell local CID detectives and uniformed police officers which person has committed the crime within this impressive time scale.”

Gwent Police Assistant Chief Constable Matt Jukes added: “We are delivering truly 21st century forensic science, using our own experts from across two forces. By working together, we are getting fast results from crime scenes to the laboratory and turning these into arrests and prosecutions.”

The main departments within the new unit include:

•Drugs lab, to analyse drugs seized by officers.

•Glass lab, to analyse clothing or

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