In the police world, seizing property and evidence is a routine procedure. But what happens to all of those articles once the crime scene is cleared?
The Fresno Police Department invited CBS47 inside their storage spaces for a first hand look, and an explanation as to how items are disposed.
CBS47's Tony Botti shows how police are using confiscated items to put crooks in prison, as well as improve lives in our community.
You frequently see it on our newscasts -- Fresno police taping off crime scenes and investigators hauling away evidence and personal property, like guns, drugs, jewelry and cash. But where do all of these items go?
It’s all taken to police department evidence locker. Sergeant Kirk Pool with the Fresno Police Department invited CBS47 inside. “This right here is just one of 19 storage spaces that the Fresno Police Department has. These boxes here are from 2011. It might seem overwhelming how packed this place is, but thanks to a precise organization system, officers can find whatever they need in a matter of seconds,” said Pool.
The property and evidence control section is run like a giant library, but instead of books, there are items confiscated in raids and arrests. Before they get there, officers log them into a cutting edge computer system, which creates a record. Each item gets its own bar code, which allows officers the ability to track down critical components requested during trials. “If we don't handle it correctly, it may not be admissible in court. Then, cases get dismissed and potentially guilty people go free,” said Sgt. Pool.
Right now, evidence control has an astonishing 155,000 items in storage. The biggest challenge these days is working with fewer resources. Because of budget cuts, this section has lost 44% of its staff. Prior to the cuts, there were 90 items rotated out for every 100 taken in. Today, that number is down to 60, which means they are operating 30% less efficiently. “We're doing the best we can with what we've got,” said Sgt. Pool.
So what happens to the evidence when the trial ends and it's no longer needed?
In the case of drugs, they are first run through a verification process. “They test the drugs to make sure what they're testing in fact matches what the lab results are. At the end, the drugs are taken to a facility where they are later incinerated,” said Sgt. Pool.
And in the case of guns, they are destroyed by being chopped up. “We're very confident there's no way they can get back out on the streets and parts reused,” said Sgt. Pool.
As for cash, it's stashed inside a vault and then every five months, police give the city’s budget a boost by depositing the money into Fresno’s general fund.
Some items, like ammunition, can be reused by the department for officer training. Tools and electronics are sometimes dispersed to divisions in need of such equipment. “It helps us to do our job better and more efficiently, but it doesn't cost the taxpayer any money out of our budget,” said Sgt. Pool.
Seized goods also prove to be beneficial for the community. Police once donated a set of stolen cymbals to Edison High School. Music Director Corey Reynolds says he would have had to spend about $400 to get similar percussion pieces. “Anytime we can get something donated or that falls into our hands by someone saying, “We see you need this, here you go” -- that works out great,” said Reynolds.
Police have also helped add clothing to the Marjaree Mason Center's closet. The non-profit group that helps those caught in abusive relationships, desperately relies on public donations to provide their clients a sense of security. “There's nothing like coming somewhere if you're fleeing in the middle of the night and you come and receive a new pillow, new blanket, new sheets, pajamas. Things you can call your own,” said Charise Hansen with the Marjaree Mason Center.
Sergeant Pool calls it "recycling with reward". “I don't like to waste good stuff,” said Pool.
So why in such a confidential setting do a story that exposes so much? Sergeant Pool believes it's important to educate the public and also let them know that he and his team take their jobs seriously. “And to let those that may be sitting on juries know that we are accountable for this. We do a good job handling items and when an officer brings it in court, you've got legitimate evidence, said Sgt. Pool.