Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bahamas to get forensic lab, McCartney to head project

By GENEA NOEL

The Freeport News
Freeport, Grand Bahama-Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Quinn McCartney will oversee the establishment of a DNA forensic lab in the capital, the first for The Bahamas.

McCartney, who has command of police operations in Grand Bahama, recently confirmed to The Freeport News that the project which is currently in its infancy stage will offer some benefits in tackling the escalating crime problem.

He shared that renovations are being planned for a building at the Police Headquarters in New Providence for a forensics lab which will include a DNA section.

"We are engaging an architectural firm to assist us in drawing plans and giving us a cost of what it will be to renovate the building to make it suitable for the forensic lab."

Qualified as a forensic scientist, McCartney said that he will be responsible for the project and hopes that in the future the lab can be expanded to accommodate other areas of forensic science, but the DNA section is priority.

"We are hoping that by the time we have the new budget funding would have been made available for that. We are hoping that as soon as funds are released in July construction or renovations can begin."

When asked if staffing the lab would be an issue, McCartney said that at this time adequate personnel is available for the proposed lab.

He also noted the time and money that will be saved by having a local DNA lab.

"This lab will be very significant because right now we have to send all of our DNA analysis to the U.S. for testing so this particular project involves not only establishing a DNA lab, but also training Bahamians to be certified DNA analysts, who will then be able to give evidence on DNA cases."

He expects for the project to be near completion within the next 18 months and added that the government has entered into an arrangement with a company that will assist in training and certifying staff.

"I am really excited about it because a lot of times we have cases and a lot of times we are closing cases or getting leads in cases and it may all depend on having DNA evidence.

"Now that we will have a facility in The Bahamas we should be able to get results faster. Currently now it takes us two to three months on average and maybe on a rush case we can get them in a month," he said.

"Certainly with our own facilities and experts in-house we should be able to get results within a week saving time and money. DNA helps in so many ways because it gives you good intelligence."

For example, McCartney said that if there are a number of sexual offenses like rape, officials may be able to get DNA evidence that would link one person to the scene.

"This would tell us if we are dealing with a serial rapist, or if we are looking at several persons in isolation. So it is going to do wonders for us."

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