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. 


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.


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 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