local Mississippi Crime Lab backlogged, seeks new equipment


COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — A local crime laboratory in north Mississippi has a drug analysis backlog, and the director says it needs newer equipment to keep up with demand.

Columbus Crime Lab director Claudette Gilman told the Columbus City Council that the lab is losing business due to its backlog that stretches back to 2020, the Commercial Dispatch reported. A culprit is an outdated gas chromatography/mass spectrometry machine.

Gilman said the lab provides services for more than 25 agencies around Mississippi, and one of the biggest areas is analyzing evidence in drug cases.

“Our drug lab is the workhorse of our lab,” she said Thursday. “It provides 90% of the services that we do. We are using a GC/MS that was refurbished. It is a 2001 build, using technology from 1996. … Eventually, we’re not going to be able to fix it. If it breaks, we’re not going to be able to find parts for it.”

Gilman asked for a new GC/MS, “maybe two, if you’re feeling frisky.”

She estimated the cost per unit at $185,000, but said that would get the city a machine that is “a step under” the latest model. In 2020 the same machine cost $155,000.

The lab received 968 cases in 2020, and 26 are still outstanding. It received 1,095 cases in 2021 and has received 437 cases so far this year.

That backlog has cost the crime lab a major client already, she said.

“DeSoto County started using us in July 2020,” she said. “From July 2020 to March 2021 they brought 414 cases to us.”

A drug analysis runs $60, she said, meaning that work generated $24,840.

“They are not going to use us anymore because of our turnaround time,” she said.

Councilwoman Jacqueline DiCicco asked how much a new machine would matter. Gilman said it would drastically shorten the turnaround.

“We are getting a lot of pill cases, and one pill case took two months of straight running on our one GC/MS,” Gilman said. “That was the only case I could work, but if I had a secondary machine, and possibly a third one, other cases could be running simultaneously.”


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