SPACE: The Final Frontier

SPACE: The Final Frontier

Remember William Shatner’s voice-over during the opening credits for the original Star Trek TV series? It began: “Space. The final frontier.” It perfectly set the stage for the ambitious new sci-fi series about the crew of a starship on a five-year mission to explore beyond our solar system into the reaches of seemingly infinite space.

Outer space may be infinite, but inner space sure isn’t. Today’s police evidence rooms are a testament to that. More evidence is being collected, processed, and stored than ever before. It’s being stored longer, too. The local PD and its personnel are most affected by this increase, but the workload isn’t the problem; the need for more space to properly store and preserve the evidence is the problem. 

To the unfamiliar, police agencies running out of room to properly store their criminal case evidence might seem like a back-burner issue. It is not. In this piece, we’ll look at the overall problem and its effects on the agency and others involved and discuss a private sector solution that’s proven to work.

Maximum Storage Capacity

Your evidence folks can’t just turn on a “No Vacancy” sign if your evidence room has reached its maximum storage capacity (MSC). Are you thinking, maximum storage capacity? There is no such thing – you’re right, but think about MSC this way. MSC has been reached when every container, no matter where it’s stored, vault, refrigerator, freezer, safe, anywhere, and anything you use within your evidence room to store and preserve your evidence on hand properly – is full. Nothing is out of place. It’s orderly – even within the refrigerators, the contents are stacked neatly, labels visible, all easily accessible. It’s evidence room Nirvana in the basement of the local PD.

At MSC, the entire inventory meets the conditions required for its preservation.

With the next item of evidence submitted, you’re now “over capacity,”  

But there’s still space to use if you have to, right? Of course, how much depends on your interior storage infrastructure, room size and design, etc.

It’s important to have that “over capacity” line in the sand drawn to assess the operations of the evidence room because now, things can get messy – literally.

Inside an Over-Capacity Evidence Room

Let’s use one shelving unit’s top shelf as an example. Its deteriorating condition can be extrapolated and applied throughout the evidence room. 

Imagine a five-shelf unit open on both sides. Look at the top shelf. Eight plastic bins sit side by side. The bins are translucent and open from the top. We can see that all the bins are full, and all contain sealed brown paper evidence bags. Each bin holds a different-sized brown bag.

We revisit this shelf a few days later. Now, three bins have two brown bags sitting on top of them. Four others have one. 

On our third visit, the scene changed a lot. We are looking at brown bags of all sizes mixed into one big pile, covering the bins from end to end. There are a few evidence bags wedged between the bins, too. 

During our final visit we see that not much has changed except that there are now two storage bins on the floor next to the shelving unit. They’re open. A handful of brown bags are in the floor bins, along with four or five clear plastic evidence bags, all containing what we assume is an item of evidence. We also make note of a few brown paper bags that are now lying on top of the bins on the other shelves. A quick glance into the bins on the floor reveals, along with the evidence bags, two balled-up brown bags, discarded tape used for sealing evidence containers, and a banana Moon Pie wrapper. 

Over time, the entire evidence room will look kinda like our favorite shelving unit and its surroundings. But worse. Stacks of evidence containers take up floor space throughout the room and block access to the evidence that has remained properly stored. The tops of filing cabinets, any flat surface really, have become prime real estate for storage, including the tops of evidence containers, no matter where they might be. Cabinets for supplies and forms have been repurposed for holding evidence; the supplies now sit on a folding table in the hallway. 

Coping

Your evidence personnel are doing their best with what they have. But the evidence is coming in faster – much more so – than is going out.  

The facility has become cluttered, disorganized, a maze to navigate, and more challenging to work in. Unless addressed soon, the evidence room will become more disheveled than Jack Nicolson’s hair toward the end of The Shining. 

This chaotic environment can negatively affect inventory integrity, chain of custody documentation, proper preservation of evidence, and the efficiency of the evidence retention process. Let’s take a look at these critical functions.

Over Capacity: Concerns and Consequences

Inventory Integrity: Evidence can be more easily misplaced when it’s stored anywhere and everywhere within a facility. An agency should be able to account for the location of a particular piece of evidence at any time while it is in their custody. This can be very difficult with evidence scattered throughout the facility. 

Unbroken Chain of Custody: An unbroken chain of custody record must be maintained for every item stored within an agency’s evidence room. This record will document the arrival, movement within, and departure of the item, along with the corresponding date, time, and name of the person responsible. The unbroken part of the chain is what’s important here. A gap in the record indicates a period when the agency cannot account for its location and status. The admissibility of the evidence will almost always be challenged in court if there is a break in the chain of custody.

Evidence Preservation: Evidence must remain appropriately preserved throughout its stay in the local PD evidence room. Some require special storage conditions to maintain them long-term. Those conditions can be environmental and include storage within specific temperature and humidity ranges. Personnel must recognize the special storage status of these items and store them in a location that satisfies the particular requirements.

Evidence Retention Periods: Each state has its own laws regarding how long evidence must be held after adjudication or other event that would justify the release or destruction of evidence on hand. Basic evidence management software can track retention periods and notify personnel when items have reached their limits. This notification should be acted upon immediately to begin the removal process. 

Many agencies have been operating “Over Capacity” for a long time now; others are close to that milestone. Departments that can avoid “going there” altogether are best positioned to prevent mistakes and serve the justice system by providing admissible evidence without fail.

Private Sector Solution

Last summer, Fortress Plus Solutions (FPS) opened its doors in the greater Chicago area. FPS is a private company dedicated to providing law enforcement with evidence management and long-term storage and preservation services. FPS meets or exceeds all the standards that police agencies must abide by regarding evidence management. FPS employs retired law enforcement and other experts who operate a facility that is second to none in physical security, internal climate control, evidence tracking systems, and on-site staff, which allows them to constantly monitor all of its systems and respond immediately to any anomalies in any of their operations. They also offer secure transportation services between their facility and client agencies.

Conclusion

Police evidence rooms all across the country are at or nearing their inventory capacities. Evidence is coming in faster than ever before, creating a backlog of items held in the local agency’s evidence room. This situation is nearly overwhelming the facility, hindering its operations and personnel. The problem, caused by a need for more adequate space in evidence rooms, needs a solution. Fortress Plus Solutions (FPS), a private company specializing in long-term evidence storage and preservation services for law enforcement, offers a solution to this problem in the Chicago area. FPS will store any agency’s long-term evidence off-site at their state-of-the-art facility, creating space to work with and normalize operations in your evidence room. 

FORTRESS PLUS SOLUTIONS

Fortress Plus Solutions provides safe, secure, handling, documented transportation, storage, and preservation of evidence and property for the long term. If your items require special storage conditions – we provide that. In addition, we offer evidence room audits to help law enforcement maintain best practices and accurate and up-to-date inventory records. In our blog, we post informative articles about privatized long-term storage, the auditing process, and more. To learn more about our services, click here

 

Ensuring Accountability: Standards and Regulations Governing Privatized Evidence Storage Providers

Ensuring Accountability: Standards and Regulations Governing Privatized Evidence Storage Providers

Privatizing long-term evidence storage for law enforcement is a cost-effective, practical option for many agencies. However, the practice of safeguarding, handling, and storing criminal case evidence is governed by federal and state law, rules of evidence, and even the fundamentals of science in some cases. All these regulations must be strictly adhered to. This piece focuses on accountability and adherence to those regulations by private providers.

1. STEADFAST ACCOUNTABILITY 

Accountability in all of its operations is vital for a private company providing long-term evidence storage for law enforcement. Accountability builds and maintains the trust required for law enforcement to hand over a portion of the job they’ve been doing for years to the private sector. Within it, they entrust a company with irreplaceable items that must be maintained, sometimes for years, for potential use in future criminal court cases. Accountability is a process. The company promises to provide its services efficiently, effectively, and lawfully, and the client agency, and sometimes others, ensure they do. 

2. REGULATORY STANDARDS COMPLIANCE

The laws and regulatory standards of evidence storage can be complex. Private providers are often staffed by former law enforcement personnel considered to be experts in the field of evidence management. And many of these experts have worked at their companies since their inception. They have years of experience interpreting and working with all compliance standards and have “written the book” of procedures and compliance for their companies. 

3. CHAIN OF CUSTODY DOCUMENTATION

Maintaining and proving an unbroken chain of custody record for each item of evidence is imperative for law enforcement and private providers alike. Providers know this and follow established procedures that document the receiving, handling, and storage placement of any piece of evidence in their care. Advanced tracking systems are utilized in the process, and the precise location of a given item of evidence is available at any time. When an item is retrieved, the process continues, maintaining an unbroken chain of custody record for the storage lifetime of that particular item.

4. SECURITY

Providing a secure and well-monitored facility should not be overlooked in the accountability process. Private providers design facilities with modern access control, video surveillance, multiple alarm systems, vaults, and armories to keep the evidence safe and untampered with. Regularly scheduled security assessments and internal audits ensure the highest level of security is maintained at all times.

5. TRANSPARENCY

Law enforcement should expect transparency from a private provider. A professional company will always maintain open lines of communication with law enforcement. One way they do this is by regular reporting to their client agencies. Reports can include:

  • Access records
  • The status of an agency’s evidence on hand
  • Any storage condition anomalies
  • Unusual occurrences at the facility, such as a power outage

Reports of this type should include the anomalies or unusual occurrences duration and the action taken, to address it. Transparency builds trust, the company’s reputation, and is another part of the accountability process.

6. EXTERNAL OVERSIGHT

Private providers often have third-party organizations complete thorough audits on their facilities, operations, level of security, chain of custody documentation, and regulations compliance. These audits are conducted to show proof that they are utilizing the industry’s best practices. They also serve as a practical examination of their operations to help them identify areas where they could operate more efficiently. Depending on the type of audit and organization conducting it, the company may receive an official certification indicating its operations and regulatory compliance meet or exceed industry standards.

SUMMARY

Private providers employ former law enforcement evidence management experts and are well-versed in all the aspects involved in providing long-term evidence storage services to the public sector. They realize that they must be and will be – held accountable for their operations, whether it be by their client agencies or the external audit process. Companies hold themselves accountable by conducting security assessments and internal audits of their operations. By maintaining open lines of communication with their client agencies, private providers bolster their accountability and demonstrate their services comply with all the regulations, laws, and standards that govern the long-term evidence storage industry.

FORTRESS PLUS SOLUTIONS

Fortress Plus Solutions provides safe, secure storage, handling, and transportation of evidence and property requiring long-term and special storage conditions. In addition, we offer evidence-room audits to help law enforcement maintain accurate and up-to-date evidence-room inventory records. And in our blog, we post informative articles about privatized long-term storage. To learn more about our services, click here

 

Private or Public? Comparing Approaches to Long-Term Evidence Preservation

Private or Public? Comparing Approaches to Long-Term Evidence Preservation

Traditionally, law enforcement agencies have stored evidence within in-house facilities. Now, they have an option for their long-term evidence storage. The private sector has stepped up and provided long-term evidence storage solutions for police agencies, and this option has proven quite valuable and effective.

Many standards must be adhered to in the proper preservation of evidence. Any deviations may result in the evidence being ruled inadmissible in court. And these standards apply to whoever has it in their control.

It’s important to note that storage and preservation go hand-in-hand. Law enforcement must store evidence in varying, particular environments to preserve them properly. 

This piece compares the private and public sectors’ approaches to preserving specific types of evidence.

Private Sector vs. Public Agencies 

If appropriate for the type of evidence, private companies will wrap and label individual items and use RFID or other applied technology to track evidence within their facilities. These systems pinpoint the item’s location, maintaining accurate chain of custody documentation and adding another layer of protection for the items in the care. Their warehouse-type facilities are ready to scale to their client’s needs and have temperature and humidity-controlled zones that preserve evidence in the proper environment.

Many, if not most, of today’s police evidence rooms are struggling with a lack of evidence storage space. Few have the specialized infrastructure needed to store all that evidence in compliance with modern best practices, especially for the long term. 

1. Firearms and Ballistic Evidence

Most private companies have separate, secure, monitored, and maintained armories within their facilities to store firearms and other ballistic evidence. This provides an extra layer of security and ensures firearm evidence remains appropriately preserved. Most public agencies lack the facilities to keep all of their firearms stored in a separate, secure space within their evidence rooms. 

2. Documents

Paper documents are sensitive in nature and can quickly degrade over time. Proper preservation involves correct initial packaging, repackaging after examination, and storage in temperature and humidity-controlled spaces. Aging evidence rooms lack the space and infrastructure to store documents suitably long-term, risking degradation. Private providers have designed their facilities to accommodate all types of evidence and excel in preserving items that require special handling and storage.

3. Biological Evidence

DNA samples, blood-stained items, and other biological items require special handling, preservation techniques, and storage conditions. While a local evidence room’s personnel are typically up to most tasks, long-term storage could be more problematic. Unless they work in an agency with a brand-new facility, the shortage of space and the design of their evidence room hinder their ability to abide by all of the standards of evidence management. The private sector provides these services as a matter of routine. They have the facilities and follow specific procedures to store biological evidence using today’s best practices.

4. Large or Odd-Shaped Evidence

Evidence only sometimes comes in sizes and shapes that easily fit on a shelf. The truth is, almost anything you can imagine can become physical evidence used in a crime, and preservation and long-term storage may be required. When comparing the space between the local evidence room and the private company’s facility, there is no comparison. The private facility is enormous in comparison and can easily store large or odd-shaped evidence.

5. Vehicles

Most agencies rely on their local impound lot to store vehicles. These lots are fenced and locked, and in larger communities, they may even be staffed round-the-clock. But for most of these impound lots, the vehicles are stored outside, in a remote location, at the mercy of the weather, and sitting behind chain-link fences offering minimal protection. These conditions are not conducive to vehicle preservation. 

Private companies offer a much better option. They have the facilities to store and preserve vehicles for the long haul. Offering both interior and exterior storage options, what separates them from the local impound lot is their level of preservation expertise and security. Private providers often wrap vehicles to properly preserve them – whether stored inside or outside their facilities. Outside storage is accomplished behind solid walls, so their lots are not visible to the public. These outdoor storage areas are access controlled, alarmed, and video monitored 24-7 by on-site staff.

Conclusion

There is a stark difference between the public and private sectors regarding preserving and storing evidence. Most local PD evidence rooms are not large enough to hold the amount of evidence they have on hand. Neither were they designed to properly preserve their inventories, including many types of evidence with varying environmental requirements.

The private sector has provided long-term evidence storage options for many years now. Besides having the space to scale to their client’s needs, private providers have the facilities, infrastructure, and protocols to store evidence by adhering to modern standards. Private providers offer an option to law enforcement, one that ensures each type of evidence is maintained securely, constantly monitored, properly documented, and stored within the needed environment to preserve the evidence long-term. 

FORTRESS PLUS SOLUTIONS 

Fortress Plus Solutions provides safe, secure, documented transportation, handling, and storage of evidence and property for the long term. If your items require special storage conditions – we provide that. In addition, we offer evidence room audits to help law enforcement maintain best practices and accurate and up-to-date inventory records. In our blog, we post informative articles about privatized long-term storage and the auditing process. To learn more about our services, click here

 

New Evidence Room Construction or The Private Sector Option

New Evidence Room Construction or The Private Sector Option

With police department’s evidence and property rooms operating near, at, or over capacity all over the country, agencies are searching for workable solutions to tackle their lack of space. The problem isn’t just that many have run out of storage space, but that situation also creates operational and regulatory compliance issues. An obvious solution that comes to mind is to enlarge the present space or build a new facility. Neither is a viable solution for many if not most, agencies.

In select locations nationwide, the private sector provides safe and secure storage and preservation of criminal case evidence for law enforcement. They do so in warehouse-type facilities designed and equipped to store evidence properly according to their types and preservation requirements. Private providers employ experts in the industry, many of whom are retired or current law enforcement personnel. 

The staff, availability of resources, and the facilities operated come together and stand head and shoulders above the operations of most law enforcement evidence rooms regarding efficiency. It’s kind of like our government’s space agency, NASA, over the last few years. Who is designing, testing, and flying our newest rockets – even the one slated to take astronauts back to the moon? It’s the private sector. It’s private companies that have the capital, collective knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit to step in and provide services and equipment that meet or exceed NASA’s standards.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Some agencies can and do build new evidence storage facilities. However, this is a complex and resource-intensive process. It involves securing funding through grants and other sources, coordinating with various stakeholders, and adhering to strict construction and regulatory standards. This piece examines that process and how the private sector offers a more streamlined and cost-effective alternative to constructing a new evidence facility.

Evidence Facility Construction – Washington, Illinois

The chief of the Washington, IL, police department has been working with his deputy chief since 2017 to make a new evidence and property facility a reality for the WPD. Their hard work and tenacity paid off last year when the city council approved the 1.8 million-dollar project. 

Federal and state grant funding applications were approved and added to federal funds on hand to cover more than 1.3 million dollars of the project’s cost. The last $500,000 will reportedly come from the police budget. 

 The chief acknowledged the participation of their local congressman and state legislators in the grant approval process.

The new building is about 32,000 square feet and doubles the available space for evidence storage. The building site is on city-owned property and allows for future expansion.

Historically, the WPD stored its evidence in a shared building with the city’s public works department. That building was described as “dilapidated,” according to the architectural firm hired for the new building’s design; it would cost more to renovate the shared building – bringing it up to modern evidence storage standards – than it would to build a new one.

Congrats to the administration of the Washington, IL, Police Department and its officers. A new facility will be more efficient to work in and, with the space to expand, if need be, provide you with a facility that will serve the people of Washington for years to come. Good work!

Source: https://www.wcbu.org/local-news/2023-11-14/six-year-quest-ends-washington-police-department-to-get-its-own-evidence-building

Evidence Room Operations

A quick review. Evidence management is a complex world governed by state and federal laws, standards, regulations, and best practices. Critical aspects of an evidence room’s operations include:

  • Secure evidence storage- The very baseline requirement. Evidence must be stored securely in an access-controlled facility.
  • Proper preservation- Many types of evidence require special storage conditions. Evidence rooms should provide environments that will preserve any evidence in their inventories.
  • Chain of custody- Keeping an unbroken chain of custody record is a requirement for the item’s admissibility in court.
  • Accessibility- Evidence must remain accessible to be sent out for testing and to the investigators working on the case.  
  • Legal compliance- Any law enforcement employee who handles evidence must adhere to the many regulations of evidence management. Evidence rooms must contain specific equipment and be designed to comply with regulations and standards. 

Many systems, procedures, and other aspects of evidence management are woven throughout the items mentioned above, and all will be necessary components in constructing a new evidence room.

New Construction Considerations

This is not a detailed list of the many factors in constructing a new evidence room, but it’s a start – if you are exploring the possibility.

1. Condition of Your Evidence Room Now

If new construction is an option, consider the state of affairs in your evidence room right now. Does it lack the space to properly store the volume of evidence you have on hand – not to mention your future storage needs? Is the facility disorganized? Are items stored or stacked up individually, here and there, and are none in proper storage containers? Are storage containers taking up floor space and blocking access to the properly stored items? Is the condition of the room and interior infrastructure or equipment (or a lack thereof) creating an environment that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to adhere to evidence storage and preservation standards?

Unfortunately, that description fits many local police evidence rooms today, and if it describes your evidence room, it should demand your immediate attention. The fact is, it can’t wait for a new facility to be built.

2. Budget Constraints 

Acquiring the funding necessary for new construction or even remodeling of an evidence room may take years of planning and coordination with outside organizations, consultants, and politicians to come to fruition. 

As evidenced by the Washington PD example, it did take several years to obtain the funding, most of which came in the form of state and federal grants. Along with those funding sources, the City of Washington utilized federal CURES funding that the city received for public safety expenses during the recent pandemic. That was a special funding source whose timing worked for the WPD but cannot be counted on in the future. 

General cost considerations include architectural planning, interior design, construction, security systems, HVAC, updated computer systems, software, shelving, refrigeration, freezers, decontamination and biohazard storage facilities, and potentially, additional personnel costs to staff the new facility.

3. Facility Design

While most experienced evidence room personnel could tell you the basic design and equipment requirements for a new evidence room, the devil is in the details. Some considerations include the types of evidence stored there, the separate interior environments required for preservation, the security systems needed (access control, alarms, video), the amount of storage space required to operate efficiently into the future, and much more. If new construction is on the table, decision-makers would be well-advised to hire an expert consultant to help with the details and costs.

4. Legal Compliance

Any new facility must comply with the applicable federal, state, and local laws and evidence management requirements. These mandatory costs will make your construction more complex and add significantly to its cost.

5. Actual Costs

The cost of constructing a new evidence room would vary widely depending on your department’s location, planned size, agency-specific needs, permit requirements, consultant’s and architect’s fees, materials, and construction costs, among other factors.

6. Grant Funding

Grant funding, if available, may be utilized toward construction costs. However, with the complexities of the overall federal and state grant processes, if you don’t have an expert on your staff who thoroughly understands the methodology, you would be well served to hire a consultant to help you navigate this vital source of funding in a manner that best serves the needs of your agency.  

The Non-Construction Option

There is an option for law enforcement executives to consider that doesn’t involve construction. The private companies mentioned in the opening of this piece offer reliable long-term evidence storage and preservation services. These companies provide real solutions to police agencies grappling with evidence whose volume overwhelms their capacity to store it properly. Private providers have demonstrated their ability to store evidence while adhering to the industry’s requirements and regulations. They scale their services and fees depending on a particular agency’s needs – proving them to be a cost-effective option compared to new construction.

It’s important to note that private providers do not replace the local evidence room or its personnel. They specialize in storing evidence that must be held long-term. But remove all the long-term evidence held at the local level, and you might be amazed at how much open space you now have to work with. 

After the initial transfer of items to the off-site facility, accomplished methodically and conducted by the company’s personnel in secure transport vehicles, all an agency needs to do is contact the company when other items requiring long-term storage are identified and initiate the transfer procedure. Again, the transfer can be handled by the private provider’s personnel. 

If completed regularly, this process will remove items from the local evidence room on a timely basis and maintain the evidence at manageable levels.

If you want a simpler, easier, and much faster solution to your evidence room space problem compared to new construction, this option certainly satisfies those wants.

At this point in time, this option is limited by geography, as only a handful of these companies are operating in the United States, and their locations stretch from coast to coast.

Conclusion

Building a new evidence facility is a complex and costly project. It can take years of planning and coordination with outside organizations to bring such a project to fruition. Considerations include budget constraints, facility design, legal compliance, funding sources, actual costs, and the condition of your evidence room at present – it may need attention now, not years from now. However, there is an option for law enforcement leaders to consider. The private sector offers off-site storage solutions to agencies struggling with overwhelmed facilities and inefficient evidence room operations. This solution can be accomplished in days or weeks as opposed to years. And they provide it at a fraction of the cost of building a new evidence room. 

FORTRESS PLUS SOLUTIONS

Fortress Plus Solutions, located in the greater Chicago area, provides cost-effective, safe, secure, documented transportation, handling, preservation, and storage of criminal case evidence for the long term. If your items require special storage conditions – we provide them as a matter of routine. All of our services meet or exceed the standards of the industry and the laws and regulations of evidence management. In addition, we offer evidence room audits to help law enforcement maintain best practices and accurate and up-to-date inventory records. Our blog posts informative articles about privatized long-term storage, the auditing process, and more. To learn about our services, click here

 

Enhancing Efficiency and Security: How Privatization Improves Long-Term Evidence Storage

Enhancing Efficiency and Security: How Privatization Improves Long-Term Evidence Storage

Criminal case evidence must be stored within a secure facility, and chain of custody documentation must be maintained for each piece of evidence stored within it. In a perfect system, all evidentiary items are stored in adherence to regulations, in their proper environments, their exact locations are known, and they are easily retrievable.

Law enforcement agencies maintain their own property and evidence rooms within their facilities. This has been the standard operating procedure for years, but like most systems, the system will eventually require updating to be effective. In the past few years, law enforcement has turned to the private sector in what amounts to that “systems update” for their long-term evidence storage needs.

Privatization of long-term evidence storage is an efficient and cost-effective solution to overcrowded and inefficiently managed property and evidence rooms. In this piece, we’ll focus on how private providers can improve an agency’s efficiency in the evidence management process while guaranteeing it remains secure and properly documented.

1. SECURE FACILITIES

Private facilities were designed for the job, many by former law enforcement evidence management experts. They include modern access control systems, video surveillance, and multiple monitored alarm systems – some companies have personnel on-site round the clock monitoring the facility and its systems; this allows for an immediate response to any security issue that could come up.

2. PEACE OF MIND WITHIN THE FACILITY

The task of storing evidence properly does not end at the outer walls of the facility. One of the most valuable services private companies offer is the ability to store items in the exact environment required. There is no “one size fits all” long-term evidence storage solution. Private facilities include multiple zones where the temperature and humidity levels are maintained according to the type of evidence stored within them. These systems are constantly monitored, ensuring the evidence remains in the environment called for. 

Private providers utilize state-of-the-art tracking – like barcoding or RFID systems – to track evidence in their care. These systems pinpoint the location of every piece of evidence in their facility and provide the documentation necessary to maintain an unbroken chain of custody record.

3. ORGANIZATION

For law enforcement personnel who work in evidence management, gone will be the days of rummaging through a disorganized evidence room looking for a specific item – if they contract with a private provider. Most private facilities are warehouse-type buildings that can store vast amounts of evidence. And within that space, the evidence is highly organized. Private providers use specialized containers, tall shelving units, armories, vaults, refrigeration units, and other areas to accommodate large and odd-shaped items. Forklifts are common in private facilities, allowing the provider to maximize the storage space it has on hand – something you’d never see in an in-house evidence room. A private facility is organized, easy to clean, and easy for personnel to move around in. With that organization and the tracking system they have in place, items can easily and quickly be retrieved when needed.

4. LEGAL COMPLIANCE

Private companies streamline legal compliance, regulatory, and documentation tasks for law enforcement. The experts who helped design the facility are on-staff and have first-hand knowledge and years of experience in evidence handling and storage compliance management. They thoroughly understand the laws and all regulatory requirements of long-term evidence storage and have established their companies’ procedures to comply with them. And, of course, this includes maintaining an unbroken chain of custody record for the evidence stored in their facilities.

Many of the staff at a private company will maintain membership in professional evidence management organizations to take advantage of the training programs, law updates, and other information they provide to maintain the industry’s best practices.  

5. COST EFFICIENCY

Maintaining long-term evidence on-site requires significant funding for law enforcement agencies. Contracting with a private provider can reduce personnel, facility maintenance, equipment, and supply costs. But is it cost-effective? 

For many agencies looking into privatization, the answer is yes. Private providers can offer cost-effective solutions to law enforcement because they are experts in their field who have scrutinized their operations for efficiency and have set themselves up for success before they opened their doors. The scale of their operations and customized pricing plans allow them to provide their services affordably to individual departments.

Another budget-friendly aspect of privatization is the predictability of the cost. Private providers customize their pricing according to what an agency needs now and will provide them with a scalable pricing model based on future evidence storage requirements of the department. This fact allows law enforcement executives to plan their budgets accordingly. 

SUMMARY 

Many law enforcement agencies nationwide find themselves in an era where the traditional in-house long-term evidence storage method is no longer viable. Evidence management has become inefficient. It is costly, and most agencies cannot afford to build new facilities and cover all the associated costs. But there is good news. The private sector has a solution to the problems those agencies face. With experts at the helm of their companies, private providers can store evidence long-term in secure facilities that include the most modern security and tracking systems and comply with all laws and regulations that govern evidence storage. By operating and maintaining organized facilities, evidence retrieval is easy, and the company can provide unbroken chain of custody documentation. Private companies tailor their services to the agency, and the scale of their operations allows them to offer cost-effective long-term evidence storage solutions to law enforcement.  

FORTRESS PLUS SOLUTIONS

At Fortress Plus Solutions, we provide safe, secure storage, handling, and transportation of evidence and property requiring long-term and special storage conditions. In addition, we offer evidence-room audits to help law enforcement maintain accurate and up-to-date evidence-room inventory records. And in our blog, we post informative articles about privatized long-term storage. To learn more about our services, click here