Official: New State-Of-The Art Crime Lab Is Like ‘CSI: Westchester’

VALHALLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police officers are fond of saying, “It’s not like it is on TV,” meaning that crimes are not solved in an hour.

But as CBS2’s Lou Young reported, Westchester County officials are so proud of their new crime lab that they are comparing it to TV crime dramas. Young went behind the scenes to see for himself late Tuesday.

At the Westchester County Police Academy in Valhalla, where elite units practice shooter drills and cadets train to become officers, a state-of-the-art crime lab has been built and unveiled to carry suburban policing well into the 21st century.

To say they are proud of it is an understatement.

“I would say this is CSI: Westchester,” said Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

The professionals rarely seek comparison with TV crime shows, but this place is closing the gap.

The operation includes a full ballistics lab with computers linked to a national database, a digital analysis unit, full latent fingerprint retrieval and analysis, as well as crime scene investigation.

“We service all 42 jurisdictions in Westchester County, as well as the state police, federal law enforcement and New York City DEP,” said Westchester County Police Detective Arthur Holzman.

Some of the techniques have been around for years, but are now finally all in one place. Other things are like something out of CSI on TV, such as a 3D crime scene camera that moves 360 degrees and allows them to bring police, suspects, witnesses and everyone back to the crime scene as it existed when police first arrived.

“It is as close to reality as you can get – a lot closer than anybody can measure with a steel tape, or with a ruler, or string, or with regular digital photography,” said Crime Lab Director Sgt. James Harrison. “We can bring anyone back to the scene. It’s preserved indefinitely.”

The 3D cameras are capable of seeing things investigators may have missed when they first saw crime scenes in person. It cost over $100,000, and the lab renovation ran $9.3 million.

Although DNA work is still performed at the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s office, the new crime lab is essentially one-stop shopping for crime solving.

The Westchester County Crime Lab is so well-regarded that it even recently handled work for Nassau County when the Long Island county’s crime lab lost accreditation.

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