In my experience, both police and forensic scientists barely have enough money to keep pace with the workloads they manage on a daily basis, so if you think this evidence is being stored in the best of facilities, you may be unpleasantly surprised. And with authorities now focused on saving and rebuilding lives, as they should be, the evidence piled in their vaults and warehouses can only be of marginal importance right now. Only time will tell if Harvey's southern assault will obstruct future justice.
In 2004, Hurricane Ivan rocked the Florida panhandle, threatening the evidence being stored at the Pensacola Forensic Science Laboratory operated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In a heroic display of leadership, my friend and colleague, Beth (Greene) Kroupa, and her staff managed to preserve countless cases by protecting their evidence and moving it, when necessary, to other facilities - a monumentally difficult task to say the least. But they weathered a brutal storm and, by doing so, likely prevented scores of injustices.
According to Beth, quoted in a News-Herald article about judicial backlogs caused by Hurricane Ivan, ""We don’t want to let our hard work go to waste. We know we need to show up and provide our courtroom testimony."
She succeeded. And as the aftermath of Harvey continues to tax the resources and will of the Houston law enforcement community, let's hope that as many lives can be saved and brought back to normal as soon as possible. And for those who lost their lives to crime long before Harvey ever arrived on the Texas shore, let's hope that they and their families aren't denied their chance for justice.
Author's Note: For more information on this story, please read about Hurricane Sandy and its impact on criminal evidence in New York.