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.


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, 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.