EDMOND — The state's most sophisticated forensic science crime-fighting work no longer will be done in a cramped, outdated office building in Oklahoma City, but in a state-of-the-art laboratory in Edmond. Dedication ceremonies for the $30 million Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Center will be at 2 p.m. today. Some experts in the forensic field are calling this real-life "CSI” laboratory one of the best in the United States. The 86,000-square-foot center, on Second Street just south of the University of Central Oklahoma, is the new home for 70 criminalists, evidence technicians and support staff members. The state's high-tech forensic center is expected to take care of the state's crime analysis needs for the next 20 years. Charles Curtis, director of the center, said the building was constructed so it can be expanded. "This is the first building (at OSBI) dedicated to being a laboratory,” Curtis said. "We've never had that before.” The forensic science center moved about 14 miles north from a small office building at 2132 NE 36 in Oklahoma City. "People in the trace (evidence unit) didn't even have room to move,” Curtis said. "They had a fourth of the room they have now.” The latent evidence unit wasn't even in the old lab. It was housed at OSBI headquarters at 6600 N Harvey Ave. State officials aren't sure what is going to happen to the old building. The new lab is spread over four floors and backs up to green lush trees and the city of Edmond's winding walking trails that runs from E.C. Hafer Park to Fink Park. Lilac bushes line the sidewalk leading up to the modern red brick and tan stone building. Green metal benches with the seal of the state of Oklahoma are along the walkways. Benches, furniture and shelving were mostly made by state prisoners, many whom were put behind bars because of the work that goes on in the forensic science laboratory, Curtis said. People going to the bureau on business no longer have to stand in line, crammed in next to a law enforcement officer holding a box of bloody evidence. The new center allows law enforcement officers to have a secure area to deliver evidence. The public comes in the front of the building. A secure and light-controlled garage is now available to analyze vehicles involved in crimes, something investigators said they never had before the new building. An indoor firing range that allows criminalists to make distance determinations up to 56 feet is on the second floor of the laboratory. Previously, investigators had to borrow space at a firing ranges in Edmond or Oklahoma City to do their work. "The range gives us capability to analyze and test weapons in-house where it is safe and controlled,” said Steve Brookman, criminalisticsadministrator. "This is a real boost for the law enforcement community.”
Where it all beganDirt work on the site for the laboratory, offices and classrooms began Nov. 15, 2005. Talks about a new forensic science center began in 2002, but money woes and bad weather contributed to the open date being pushed back several times. Legislators originally agreed to spend $20 million on the lab, but they learned when the bids came in that it wouldn't be enough money. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and skyrocketing fuel costs, pushed construction costs far more than what was projected. Legislators had to come up with an additional $6.3 million to cover the difference, which caused some delays. The state will have to repay $26.3 million in bond money spent on the lab. People who get traffic tickets are fined an additional $5 that will go to repay the bonds used to fund the building and operate the laboratory, said Jerry Hire, OSBI special projects officer. The rest of the cost of the center was paid with OSBI money and interest collected on the bond money during the construction phase. The project started as a joint effort between the city of Edmond, OSBI and UCO. Edmond city officials bought 11.5 acres of land for $1.7 million in 2003. OSBI paid the city $500,000 and UCO another $250,000 to go toward the purchase. The city then deeded the OSBI 6.75 acres where the new center sits. Edmond City Manager Larry Stevens said the city spent $227,000 to clear the land. City officials say in return for their commitment, they get a regional state-of-the-art center, new jobs and additional sales taxes. UCO will break ground in June on a Forensic Science Institute on campus that will offer continued education workshops for law enforcement, train students and work with the OSBI. The new OSBI building has biology and chemistry training labs graduate students can use for their studies. Five students are working as interns at OSBI this semester.
Center dedication•When: 2 p.m. today. •Where: 800 E Second St., Edmond