Ohio crime lab expanded to keep pace with drug epidemic

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Across Ohio, law enforcement officers who seize suspected illegal narcotics on the street often forward the evidence to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab for official testing.

A spokesperson for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in recent years, the number of requests has skyrocketed.

A few years ago, the crime lab received zero submissions for the potentially deadly drug, carfentanyl. Last year, that number reached 1,200.

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The threat posed by carfentanyl and fentanyl has led to safety protocols in the lab, including more protective clothing and restricted access.

BCI said the safety measures are necessary but slow the testing process at a time when requests are higher than ever.

Consider in 2010, law enforcement submitted 13, 879 drug testing requests to the BCI lab. Last year, that number had climbed to 24, 807.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General said at one point, it was taking as long as 4 months for law enforcement to receive drug testing lab results needed for prosecution.

Dan Tierney said Ohio A-G Mike DeWine responded by doubling the number of chemists at the lab and contracting with both the Hamilton and Cuyahoga County labs to help BCI get caught up on drug testing evidence.

"The turnaround time now is about 18-days, which is less than when Attorney General DeWine took office. It was about 24-days back then," said Tierney.