Piling Drug Evidence Leads To Space Problems 

Piling Drug Evidence Leads To Space Problems 
Posted by FoM on May 01, 2000 at 07:46:15 PT
Staff Writer
Source: Oklahoman Online
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has sent notice to law enforcement agencies: Come and get your drugs. Well, the message isn't quite that terse, but no longer will the state agency store drug evidence for more than two years without a good reason. 
This policy comes after the OSBI last year found drug evidence dating back to the 1970s, when Gerald Ford was president and the Arab embargo prompted a gas shortage. One case involves some "mushroom-like" substance confiscated from an Oklahoma State University student in 1979. That evidence remains sealed in a brown envelope inside a cardboard box with other envelopes, such as one containing marijuana seized in 1975 by Oklahoma City police at Reno and Pennsylvania avenues. "It was getting a little crowded," said Darrel Wilkins, the bureau's criminalistics division director. That may be an understatement. Piles of evidence representing almost 50,000 cases from some 700 law enforcement agencies were stacked to the ceiling of the 3,500-square-foot, concrete warehouse when the agency sent out notices last August. The Oklahoma City location stores most of the evidence, while some is kept at bureau labs in Enid, McAlester, Tahlequah, Lawton and Durant. In addition to space problems, the bureau wants to deplete its inventory because it is trying to become one of only about 200 nationally accredited labs. Accreditation helps prosecutors in court cases. Stringent guidelines must be followed to be nationally recognized. Among them are more training, better instruments and evidence handling. Specifically, all evidence containers must be properly sealed. "It would just take too much manpower to continually check every envelope and box," bureau spokeswoman Kym Koch said. The new policy is working. Three-fourths of the state's law enforcement agencies have authorized the bureau to destroy more than 90 percent of their old evidence. Ten tons of old drugs were destroyed April 21, Wilkins said. Before, itemized evidence lists were mailed annually to departments, asking them if the evidence could be destroyed. The response rate was about 50 percent. Law enforcement agencies making busts must submit seized drugs to the OSBI for testing in order to prove their case in court. They can then get the evidence returned, but many don't have the space. There's also the matter of security, said Lt. Donnie Anderson of the Garvin County Sheriff's Department. Anderson and other deputies make several drug stops because of trafficking along Interstate 35. "When we give the drugs to them (OSBI), there's a paper trail and they destroy it when we're done with the case," Anderson said. "I think there could be real problems if local law enforcement stored and destroyed their own drugs." That's when they call the bureau, which logged more than 18,000 evidence cases last year, 65 percent of them drug cases. In 1999, police departments submitted 53 percent of the cases, while sheriff's offices turned in 18 percent. Until a state law was changed two years ago, the bureau was required to store entire quantities of seized drugs. Wilkins remembers the 17,000 pounds of marijuana brought to the warehouse by state troopers after they busted two Chicago men near McAlester. Now the law allows the bureau to use a representative sample of drugs for court cases. As a result, the warehouse isn't nearly as full, although boxes containing baled marijuana and cocaine, as well as white plastic buckets of methamphetamine lab chemicals, still line the shelves. For the unwary, the place looks like a post office sorting room. For drug dealers, it would be paradise. Security is at a premium -- so secret, the bureau won't give out its location. Published: May 1, 2000Copyrighted 2000 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.CannabisNews Articles On Seized Drugs: 
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