AUSTIN (KXAN) - A deal between Austin and Travis County would help eliminate the long backlog of court cases that are stuck waiting for forensic testing.
The city and county have agreed to split the $103,000 cost of having an outside agency do the testing on the backlogged cases.
"We are handling the critical cases, but we need to be able to catch up," said Bill Gibbons, the forensic services manager at the Austin Police Department crime lab.
There are more than 1200 cases that need to be tested, but some of them have been waiting since last summer according to Chief Art Acevedo who thinks that wait is too long.
"From a victim standpoint and an accused standpoint, everyone deserves closure," said Acevedo who described the deal to clear the backlog as "huge."
Acevedo says a growing city, an increase in no-refusal blood draws, and new hard-to-test designer drugs have led to the backlog.
Gibbons says it takes approximately 6 months for a blood test to make its way through the current backlog, but says the same work will take about two weeks once the backlog is cleared.
It will still take about 2-4 months for Armstrong Forensic Laboratory, the outside agency doing the testing, to get caught back up.
The deal comes just a few months after the city approved hiring three new chemists who were expected to help cut into the backlogged cases, but the amount of time it would have taken to hire, train, the new employees and then do the work still would have been a lengthy wait.
Once hired, the new chemists will be able to ensure the backlog does not reach the lengths which led to the action in the first place.
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