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April 13, 2016
The Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) has been working with the Houston
Police Department’s Burglary and Theft Division to implement more efficient
procedures regarding identification of fingerprints associated with property crimes.
This is being done to ensure HFSC can more quickly provide officers with information
that could help further property crime investigations.
When HFSC took over operation of HPD’s forensic operations in April 2014, the City of
Houston had a $2.8 million contract with an external agency that did its fingerprint
work. That contract terminated and HFSC built its own Latent Print Section. Once
established, its first priority was to ensure work relating to violent crimes against
persons had a turnaround time of less than 30 days. That was accomplished last year.
HFSC’s Latent Print Section is now focusing on a backlog of more than 1,250 property
crime cases. About 300 of these cases predate HFSC’s formation.
Overall in eight forensic disciplines, HFSC has reduced a backlog of 12,000 cases to
fewer than 4,000 since taking over the lab’s operations in April 2014. Average
turnaround time in all sections has been reduced from 140 days to about 50 days.
But HFSC’s goal is to have a turnaround time of 30 days or less across all disciplines. As
the Center works to accomplish this goal, the Latent Print Section is focusing on
reducing its backlog of property crimes.
“HFSC is determined to provide HPD and other clients forensic services relevant to
their investigations,” said Dr. Daniel Garner, HFSC’s CEO and president. “Addressing
property crimes and providing closure to those victims is a priority as the Center moves
toward a 30-day turnaround time for all its services.”
HFSC has met numerous times with HPD’s Burglary and Theft Division to better
understand officers’ needs and has made changes to accommodate property crime
Among the changes being made to better respond to HPD include:
 HFSC has prioritized latent print cases based on statute of limitations. Cases that
have a close statute of limitations are being tackled first to ensure the officers
have information that can assist with an investigation before time runs out.
 HFSC is providing officers with preliminary information early on in the
investigative process. This is designed to help them quickly establish whether
the fingerprint evidence they have collected is relevant to the investigation and
can be traced back to someone other than the property owner.
 HFSC’s 2017 budget proposal, if approved, would allow for it to acquire the
latest generation digital imaging technology for fingerprint identification. The
Center’s goal is to maintain state-of-the-art forensic equipment in all disciplines.
 HFSC is working with Harris County and the state to obtain better access to
regional and state fingerprint databases. This improved access will assist with
property crime investigations because such activities are generally local in
These tools will assist HFSC eliminate the backlog of property crime cases.
HFSC’s Latent Print Section was established in 2014 after the City’s contract with the
external agency ended. HFSC had five examiners in 2014. Today, the section is made up
of 14 examiners, all of them certified by the International Association of Identification
(IAI). The newly formed section saves the City about $1.6 million annually and has been
accredited to international standards. HFSC is one of the few agencies in the country
that has latent print accreditation and fully certified examiners.
HFSC is a local government corporation that provides forensic services to the City of
Houston and other local agencies. HFSC is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed
by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Its management
structure is designed to be responsive to a 2009 recommendation by the National
Academy of Sciences that called for crime laboratories to be independent of law
enforcement and prosecutorial branches of government.
HFSC currently operates in nine forensic disciplines.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Public Information Officer


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