Blood, bags and bikes: Steamboat police move criminal evidence to new facility
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs Police Department and Routt County Sheriff’s Office will operate in their new evidence department next week.
Completing the evidence spaces, renovated from what used to be a portion of the Sheriff’s Office, marks the final project in the $19.3 million Combined Law Enforcement Facility.
Decked out with high-tech apparatuses and a metallic sheen, it makes the old evidence facilities look like a medieval dungeon. During a tour of the new evidence spaces, Cmdr. Jerry Stabile pointed out some of the expanded features and capabilities.
In a room where officers process and bag evidence, two adjustable instruments hang from the ceiling. One of them, a vacuum-like extraction arm, will allow law enforcement to collect samples and better analyze items, according to Stabile. A containment hood, something common in laboratories, are meant to prevent exposure to potentially hazardous materials.
“We haven’t been exposed to a lot of this stuff,” Stabile said, adding that his agency’s detectives and patrol officers will get specialized training on the new equipment.
But before the space opens Monday, Stabile has the methodical task of moving tens of thousands of pieces of evidence from the old building at 840 Yampa St., which housed the Police Department since 1981.
“After that many years, there is a lot of accumulation,” he said.
Stabile, who oversees evidence operations, has spent the majority of the previous two weeks ensuring each labeled bag of evidence gets into a box. Each bag will be sorted and placed in specific locations within the new facility. An officer will be with the boxes of evidence at all times while they are being moved to ensure nothing is tampered with, according to Stabile.
Most of the evidence bags will have new homes in one of several, moveable shelves like at a library within a secured room in the Combined Law Enforcement Facility. In the same room are two, industrial-grade refrigerators and two freezers meant to store biological evidence, such as blood and bone fragments.
Cmdr. Annette Dopplick said the refrigerators and freezers must be able to preserve these samples in case subsequent investigations rely on old evidence.
“You have to keep this stuff forever,” she said.
For a comparison, Stabile also gave a tour of some of the old evidence spaces. Because of legal statutes, he could not show the actual evidence room. The elevator up to the laboratory and cramped offices creaked and shuddered as it reached the second floor, which Stabile attributed to worn-out hydraulics.
Down in the garage, about 15 bicycles were stacked next to an olive green moped and a baby stroller.
Each year, the Police Department receives about 7,500 pieces of physical evidence, according to a city news release. Many of those are lost items people found, such as bicycles, phones and backpacks.
“It is amazing the amount of bikes we get,” Stabile said.
The Police Department tries to find the owners of these items, but each year about 40% of the found property goes unclaimed, according to the news release.
An online list of the found items turned into the department is at steamboatpilot.com/news/new-combined-law-enforcement-building-in-steamboat-opens-to-public-monday. The list includes several names of people who have been identified as owners of lost property but have not claimed the items. Unclaimed items either are destroyed or sold at auction, according to Stabile.
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