Forensic hi-tech crime fighting

A NEW cutting edge forensic centre for Suffolk police has heralded the dawn of a new era in crime fighting in the county.The scientific services suite (SSS) at Halesworth police station was yesterdayopened by Home Office minister Hazel Blears with Suffolk Chief Constable Alistair McWhirter.

A NEW cutting edge forensic centre for Suffolk police has heralded the dawn of a new era in crime fighting in the county.

The scientific services suite (SSS) at Halesworth police station was yesterday

opened by Home Office minister Hazel Blears with Suffolk Chief Constable Alistair McWhirter.

An increasing number of crimes are already being solved through the use of fingerprinting and DNA techniques, and it is hoped the £1.35 million centre will allow police to build on this success.

It provides Suffolk police with the latest hi-tech facilities to make use of modern forensic techniques and replaces the previous smaller unit based at Martlesham.

Together with its fingerprint development laboratory, fingerprint bureau, DNA administration section and photo-imaging unit, the suite is considered to be among the best in its field.

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Scientific services manager Jim Burzio has seen many changes since he joined Suffolk police in 1985 after 14 years with the Metropolitan Police fingerprint and scenes of crime team.

Then the unit had 19 staff including 12 detective constables from across the county.

Mr Burzio today heads a department that has 48 civilian posts and is responsible for scenes of crime, photo imaging, fingerprint development laboratory, fingerprint bureau and DNA administration.

In 1985 about 5,000 crime examinations were carried out by scenes of crime officers (SOCO) but in the 12 months until the end of March 2003 there were 9,623 examinations by SOCOs, involving more extensive techniques.

Police hope the centre will play a vital role in helping to achieve the Suffolk First objective, which aims to make the county the safest in England by 2006.

"Under our Suffolk First campaign one of the key aims is detecting more crimes and these new facilities will help us push the force even further forward in achieving this," said Mr Burzio.

"We are going to more crime scenes and recovering more forensic samples for testing. As a result we're getting more fingerprint identifications and more DNA hits, and often these are crucial to the criminal justice process," he said.

David Stagg is the principal scenes of crime officer based at Halesworth. He is responsible for 23 officers based at Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft.

So far this year, between April and September, SOCOs have attended 2,000 burglary scenes and 1,500, vehicle crime incidents collecting DNA material and footwear marks.

"We now have a multi-treatment functional area which allows us to conduct many different processes at the same time," said Mr Burzio.

Opened in 1970, Halesworth police station in Bungay Road, originally housed divisional headquarters staff and operational officers as well as being the venue for some residential training.

More recently the building is the eastern area headquarters as well as an operational police station, and home to one of Suffolk's three traffic units.

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