JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Action News was first to uncover that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office botched evidence in two local cases and a former JSO detective says it does not have to happen.
High-tech, crime-fighting tools are being utilized in law enforcement agencies across the country every day. But Action News has learned that many police departments, including JSO, are low-tech when it comes to tracking crime scene evidence.
“There's nothing in the system to prevent human error from creeping in,” said former JSO detective Michael Knox.
Knox spent 15 years investigating crime scenes across Jacksonville. He says the traditional bag and tag method of collection can be a pain for police and could jeopardize cases.
"We have to have evidence, whatever we're missing is pieces of the puzzle we may never have and that may leave those questions unanswered."
What's left at a crime scene is often key in the courtroom. Knox says as evidence can get lost, misplaced or as Action News was the first to report, destroyed when it gets checked in and out of JSO’s property room.
It all starts with bar codes produced by a $7,000 device produced by Primary Marking Systems called Evidence Tracking with Information Solution Technologies or eTWIST. The device prints a label and tracks each item collected at the crime scene via GPS satellite.
“As soon as you hit the send button, it hits the database,” said Don Nagle with NEXGEN Public Safety Solutions.
Nagle is the former Director of Technology for the Massachusetts State Police. Nagle estimates only 10 percent of law enforcement agencies across the country utilize new tools when it comes to evidence collection and processing.
He went to JSO promoting the device after seeing Action News' Ryan Smith's reports on botched evidence in two local cases.
“You can have multiple crime scene technicians picking up evidence and marking the evidence at the same time in parallel, so you're not at the scene for 10 hours,” said Nagle.
It’s a time-saving technology, Knox says, that could help officers right here in the River City.
“It gives you a better trail to track and figure out where did it go missing, what happened to it and have a better and better record of what the entire life of that piece of evidence was,” said Knox.
Evidence technicians from across the state of Florida will attend a conference featuring new crime-fighting technology later this month. JSO says they will have a representative there to review new ways to process evidence.