The VRCL is designed to assist the criminal justice community in analyzing evidence taken from crime scenes. The VRCL uses state-of-the-art technology and equipment in the analysis of evidence. Examiners employed at the VRCL are highly trained and educated in their fields of specialty and receive extensive training in their areas of expertise. Each examiner is qualified to provide expert courtroom testimony. The VRCL responds to all court orders and requests for discovery. The VRCL was first accredited in 2013 and now holds accreditation through the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) in five disciplines.
The VRCL is comprised of the Forensic Biology Unit, Computer Forensics Unit, and Forensic Services Unit, and employs 11 full-time employees, as well as part-time employees and interns. The staff also provides training to law enforcement officers and detectives in crime scene investigation, evidence collection and preservation.
The VRCL offer forensic services, which include the following:
- Crime Scene Investigations: Photography, Evidence Collection, Scene Sketch
- Forensic Biology: DNA, CODIS
- Friction Ridge: Processing, Comparisons, AFIS
- Firearms: Test fire and NIBIN
- Digital Evidence: Computers and Cell Phones
Laboratory Accredited by ANSI National Accreditation Board
Computer forensics is the application of computer investigation and analysis techniques to gather evidence suitable for presentation in a court of law. The goal of computer forensics is to perform a structured investigation while maintaining a documented chain of evidence to find out exactly what happened on a computer and who if possible, was responsible for it.
The Computer Forensics Lab is a full service digital forensics laboratory devoted entirely to the examination of digital evidence in support of criminal investigations, such as, but not limited to:
- Child pornography
- Crimes of violence
- The theft or destruction to intellectual property
- Internet crimes
The Verdugo Regional Crime Laboratory, Computer Forensics Laboratory (CFL) delivers digital and multimedia evidence processing, forensic examination, and expert testimony for the Glendale Police Department and any law enforcement agency requiring investigative support.
VRCL-CFL’s average exam turn-around time is 30 days for digital forensic support; cell phone, multimedia, and network intrusion cases are supported on a priority basis.
Crime Scene Investigation
The Crime Scene Investigation unit provides crime scene investigation services for property crimes and crimes against persons. The services include photography, videography, processing for fingerprints, and crime scene sketching; as well as the detection, recognition, documentation, collection, interpretation, and preservation of physical evidence associated with the crime scene. Forensic Specialists are also responsible for taking aerial photographs of major crime scenes.
The Forensic Biology Unit is responsible for the detection and identification of biological materials on evidentiary items; a process commonly known as “screening”. Cases submitted to the Forensic Biology Unit for DNA testing can be placed into the following examination categories:
- Secretions (semen, saliva, etc.)
- Touch/wearer DNA (all DNA is consumed in touch/wearer swabs)
The Forensic Biology Unit uses the following techniques for the detection of biological materials:
- Visual examinations (macro, microscopic)
- Alternate Light Source
- Blood Presumptive Tests (Kastle-Meyer, Hemastix®)
- Semen Presumptive Test (Acid Phosphatase Test)
- Semen Confirmatory Tests (Microscopic w/Christmas Tree Staining, Seratec® PSA Semiquant)
Probative biological material identified during evidence screening may be analyzed using a DNA technology that tests the biological material at 24 different genetic areas of the DNA (STRs, Amelogenin and 2 Y-chromosome markers). The DNA profile obtained from the evidence is compared to the DNA profile from known samples (victim, suspect, elimination samples such as a witness, husband/boyfriend, etc.) to determine if an individual is included or excluded as a possible source of the biological material.
CODIS: The DNA Database
The DNA profiles from forensic specimens and convicted felons are submitted to a national database.
The Combined DNA Index System -- (CODIS) system is a program that is headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation - (FBI). The objective of this database is to link serial crimes on a national level, much like the Automated Fingerprint Index System -- AFIS. Samples are searched weekly against the local, state, and national databases. Special exception can made to search and obtain results immediately. This system has had tremendous successes by solving several high profile crimes that would otherwise not have been solved.
This section is devoted to the detection, development, enhancement, and comparison of latent print evidence. Unknown latent prints are submitted to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) for a computerized search against fingerprint records through local, state, and federal databases.
Forensic Specialists in the Latent Print Section process evidence in a laboratory setting. Some processing techniques may take several days to complete and may involve many steps of sequential processing. Specialists use various processing techniques that are designed to develop latent prints on a variety of surfaces. The process used is dependent on the surface and include powder, Cyanoacrylate, dye stains, Ninhydrin, and Wetwop. Other chemical processes are continually being validated. In addition, digital imaging allows examiners to process latent print images, make enlargements, and prepare courtroom displays.
The Latent Print Section also provides technical expertise in the analysis and evaluation of latent print evidence. Latent prints are analyzed to determine suitability for comparison to a subject and/or entry into AFIS. A latent print that is entered into AFIS searches against hundreds of thousands of fingerprints and palm prints. A list of potential candidates is produced by the system and the fingerprint examiner determines if there is a potential “hit”. The examiner then visually compares the latent print evidence to the fingerprints on file to determine whom the print belongs. Latent prints that do not “hit” may be registered to the unsolved database for continual searching against new arrestees.
National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN)
NIBIN is a database composed of digital images of cartridge cases used to provide links between firearms-related violent crimes. The VRCL has the capability to acquire digital images of markings made on cartridge cases recovered from a crime scene or a crime gun test fire. The images are compared via electronic image comparison against other NIBIN cases. Cartridge cases are continually searched through region 1A, which includes Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Database matches are reported as NIBIN leads and are presumptive investigative leads that may be confirmed by microscopic comparison.