Forensic hubs in Ballarat and Morwell are providing regional investigators with enhanced crime solving facilities on their doorstep, leading to quicker suspect identification and arrests for serious offences such as burglaries, thefts, and drug related crime.
The regional forensic hubs, which opened almost two years ago in May 2019, offer a comprehensive range of forensic testing services for police in regional areas, as well as rapid processing turnaround times for recovery of forensic evidence which is helping fast-track investigations.
Since opening, the forensic hubs have employed a new approach centred around multi-disciplinary evidence recovery, with staff trained to identify and extract a range of different types of forensic evidence. across a range of evidence-types.
This approach ensures maximum evidence is recovered from a single examination, with scientific tests coordinated and streamlined according to their differing processing times. Ultimately, this has significantly sped up the time it takes to extract key evidence, leading to quicker arrests.
In a recent example, a glove connected to a burglary was submitted to the Ballarat forensic hub, with the investigator requesting a DNA examination of the item. While collecting the DNA sample, the multi-skilled examiner also observed a latent fingerprint on the glove.
The recovered latent print identified a suspect that police had previously not considered, which subsequently led to their arrest and charging before the DNA result had even been returned.
Police are also spending less time transporting evidence between regional Victoria and the Victoria Police Forensic Services Centre in Macleod, which until the Ballarat and Morwell hubs opened was the only multi-disciplinary forensic processing facility available to police.
In the past two years, the Ballarat and Morwell forensic hubs have processed almost 17,500 items, equating to around 24 pieces of potential evidence each day across the two facilities.
Since the forensics hubs opened, the Ballarat hub has:
– Received and examined 2,531 items associated with regional crime (includes multiple examinations)
– Received and transported a further 2371 items to Macleod for examination associated with complex regional crimes
– Received and examined 3762 items from Macleod, supporting agility in the workforce in response to manage demand.
– This equates to a total of 8664 items processed through Ballarat with 73% of these having an examination/analysis performed by Ballarat.
Since the forensics hubs opened, the Morwell hub has:
– Received and examined 2,128 items associated with regional crime (includes multiple examinations)
– Received and transported a further 1,846 items to Macleod for examination associated with complex regional crimes
– Received and examined 4,860 items from Macleod, supporting agility in the workforce in response to manage demand.
– This equates to a total of 8,834 items processed through Morwell with 70% of these having an examination/analysis performed by Morwell.
Since the regional hubs opened, it is also estimated regional police have saved around 113,000 kilometres of travel time or the equivalent of 205 trips between Mildura and Macleod, which previously consumed valuable policing and investigation time.
This equates to around 1230 policing hours or the equivalent of 51 around the clock days of frontline policing returned to the community.
Since the regional forensic hubs opened, there has also been a marked increase in the number of items connected to regional crimes being submitted for analysis as police take advantage of the enhanced services now available to them.
The Ballarat hub services Victoria Police’s Western Region, which includes Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Warrnambool, Portland, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell, and Ararat, as well processing items by request from Geelong, Colac, and Maryborough.
The Morwell hub services parts of Victoria Police’s Eastern Region, such as the Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland and Latrobe areas.
Quotes attributable to Deputy Commissioner Specialist Operations Wendy Steendam
“The Ballarat and Morwell forensic hubs have been helpful in fast-tracking regional investigations due to their ability to quickly extract a comprehensive range of evidence from forensic exhibits, leading to faster arrests and a safer community.”
“Having embedded specialist forensic facilities in regional Victoria has also reduced the need for regional and rural police to transport evidence to Melbourne for analysis, resulting in hundreds of police hours being redirected to frontline duties to protect regional Victorian communities.”
Quotes attributable to Executive Director, Forensic Services Department, Dr Rebecca Kogios
“The wide range of forensic recovery services available within our regional hubs provide our forensic officers with a more complete picture of the evidence they are analysing and therefore, how the crime occurred.”
“While the Ballarat and Morwell forensic hubs have delivered numerous benefits for regional police officers, it has also provided the Victoria Police Forensic Services Centre in Macleod with greater capacity to process evidence submitted by metropolitan investigators.”