South East Wales

South Wales and Gwent Police joint forensic unit speeds CSI work

A new joint forensic science laboratory will enable two Welsh police forces to speed up analysis of finger and footprints, shards of glass and drugs.

South Wales Police and Gwent Police say bringing more hi-tech services in-house will save time and £1m in public money.

The Joint Scientific Investigation Unit's Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) can cut finger and footprint analysis time from six days to two hours.

Police face budget cuts of 20% after the UK government's spending review.

The new unit, based at South Wales Police's Bridgend HQ and at Rumney police station in Cardiff, will employ 160 staff - 110 from South Wales Police and 50 from Gwent.

No redundancies have been made in either force in creating the unit, said a police spokesperson.

It has been launched three years after the closure was announced of the government-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS) regional laboratory in Chepstow.

Two FSS offices in Birmingham and sites in Chorley, London, Huntingdon and Wetherby were also closed as the service - said to be losing £2m a month - was finally wound up on 31 March.

'Pooling resources'

Ian Brewster, who will head the new unit, said its equipment and facilities would allow it to provide skills and services that many other UK police forces could not.

Both forces would save by pooling their resources, increasing their capacity and the range of services offered, he said.

Image caption Finger and footprints would now be processed in two hours rather than six days, the forces said

Money would also be saved as the examination of drugs, glass and footwear would no longer be out-sourced to external commercial companies.

"This new unit will save in excess of £1m due to rationalisation of jobs in the new joint establishment and in-sourcing of forensic analytical examinations," said Mr Brewster.

"We will no longer need to send drug seizures to London to be tested which will save money and time, as well as enabling our officers to swiftly charge criminals rather than bailing them back into the community."

The unit will be the only one of its kind in the UK able to undertake glass investigation, which will involve examining fragments of smashed glass for forensic evidence.

It will also be one of only three units to have a metal vacuum deposition room, which will recover fingerprints from smooth surfaces such as carrier bags and glass.

Mr Brewster said many crimes resulted in glass being smashed through burglaries or car thefts.

"The new laboratory will ensure that the glass from more crimes will be examined, resulting in more offenders being brought to justice."

Assistant chief constable Matt Jukes said the unit would deliver 21st Century forensic science.

"By working together, we are getting fast results from crime scenes to the laboratory and turning these into arrests and prosecutions," he said.

Gwent Police has said it has to make £34m in budget savings by 2016, while South Wales Police must find £47m in budget savings over the same period.

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