At the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory in Augusta, evidence from crime scenes waits in cardboard boxes to be processed for fingerprints. Some of it has been waiting for three years, the Associated Press reports. Some items from property crimes wait to be processed until they are of no use to investigators.
Skowhegan Police Detective James Ross says his department gets inquiries from the lab, asking if it should process evidence sent to Augusta two or three years ago. A fingerprint can be powerful evidence, but the wait for analysis is so long that some officers don’t want to gather fingerprint evidence, he says.
State Police Detective Sgt. William Harwood, interim lab director, says that with limited resources, his staff must process evidence for the highest-priority cases. Crimes against people, such as rapes, murders or assaults, are first. Investigations in which a single piece of evidence could lead to an arrest also get high priority, along with pending court cases. Property crimes, such as burglaries, tend to be on the bottom of the list.