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(RED BLUFF) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer today called on California lawmakers and the governor to allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to continue to provide free forensic services to local law enforcement agencies at each of the DOJ's 10 crime labs and the Richmond DNA lab.
"Access to first-rate forensic services is critical in solving cases, prosecuting criminals and protecting the public," Lockyer said. "With crime rates creeping up, this is no time to balance a state budget deficit on the back of local law enforcement, which is struggling with its own limited resources and funding problems."
Law enforcement agencies from 46 of the state's 58 counties have relied for 30 years on the DOJ labs to collect, process and analyze crime scene evidence at no cost. As a way to cut the state budget deficit, the governor has proposed requiring local agencies to pay a "fee for service" to use DOJ labs. Lockyer said that plan would cost local agencies, many of which are grappling with their own tight budgets, $3.5 million in fiscal year 2003-2004, and $7.1 million in 2004-2005.
Lockyer discussed the impact of the budget proposal at a one-day meeting in Red Bluff with district attorneys, sheriffs, police, probation, prison and highway patrol officers from 13 counties – Siskiyou, Modoc, Trinity, Shasta, Lassen, Tehama, Plumas, Glenn, Butte, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba and Sierra. The "zone" meeting, one of eight held throughout the state, provides a regional forum for the Attorney General to discuss law enforcement and public safety issues with local law enforcement officers and update them on services the Attorney General's Office is providing to help them combat crime.
The Attorney General on Sunday released preliminary crime statistics for 2002 that showed crime rates had increased almost 4 percent over the previous year. Although the rates still are far below those recorded in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in California, Lockyer said it is important that the state continue to help local law enforcement agencies protect public safety – especially during lean budget years.
Based on average use of the Chico and Redding DOJ crime labs during the past three years, the "fee for service" proposal would cost law enforcement agencies in the 13 Northern California counties $190,787 in fiscal year 2003-2004, and $387,025 in fiscal year 2004-2005.
The Redding and Chico labs have provided key services in several high-profile cases. For example, the Redding lab analyzed evidence in the July 1999 murder case of two Redding-area men, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, and in the November 2002 shooting death of Red Bluff Police Officer David Mobilio.
The DOJ crime lab in Chico analyzed evidence collected in the case involving the May 2002 murder of Jeanene Bonner, an 11-year-old Butte County girl, and in the 2001 case involving the murder of 12-year-old Courtney Sconce of Ranch Cordova.
Lockyer said that while these tragedies garnered headlines, the labs provide professional, expedient forensic service in all of the hundreds of cases received. In 2002, the DOJ crime lab in Chico processed 570 requests for alcohol analysis, controlled substances, biological evidence and other criminalistic services. During that same time period, the Redding DOJ lab processed 2,977 requests for similar services in addition to latent prints identification.
The number of requests for services at the Chico and Redding DOJ labs and the cost by county is provided on the following page.
<strong>NUMBER OF SERVICE REQUEST MADE BY EACH COUNTY, 2002</strong><br><br><table width="127" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td width="69" height="230" valign="top">Butte:<br>Colusa:<br>Glenn:<br>Lassen:<br>Modoc:<br> Plumas:<br>Shasta:<br>Sierra:<br>Siskiyou:<br>Sutter:<br>Tehama:<br>Trinity:<br>Yuba:</td><td width="58" valign="top" align="right">278<br>12<br>80<br>125<br>42<br>45<br>597<br>10<br>119<br>71<br>201<br>23<br>225</td></tr></table><strong>PROJECTED COSTS OF FEE-FOR-SERVICE PROPOSAL, BY COUNTY</strong><br><br><table width="400" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td width="100" height="240" valign="top"> <br> <br>Butte:<br>Colusa:<br>Glenn:<br> Lassen:<br>Modoc:<br>Plumas:<br>Shasta:<br>Sierra:<br>Siskiyou:<br>Sutter:<br>Tehama:<br>Trinity:<br>Yuba:<br> TOTAL:<br></td><td width="150" valign="top" align="right">(FISCAL YEAR 2003-04)<br><br>$24,943<br>$1,486<br>$9,680<br> $8,435<br>$4,378<br>$7,310<br>$60,570<br>$2,571<br>$12,050<br>$8,555<br>$22,011<br>$4,217<br>$24,581<br> $190,787<br></td><td width="150" valign="top" align="right">(FISCAL YEAR 2004-05)<br><br>$50,598<br>$3,015<br> $19,636<br>$17,111<br>$8,881<br>$14,829<br>$122,870<br>$5,215<br>$24,444<br>$17,355<br>$44,651<br>$8,555<br>$49,865<br> $387,025<br></td></tr></table>