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New Regional Crime Lab Promotes Regional Collaboration

Nathan Heffel

Crime fighting in Northern Colorado may have gotten a bit easier with the dedication of a new regional crime lab in Greeley Monday.

The nearly $4 million collaboration between Weld and Larimer counties as well as the cities of Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland will soon house state of the art forensic and analytical equipment.

The idea for the joint facility began with Weld County Sheriff John Cooke 11 years ago. He says getting all of the entities involved to work together was difficult at times.

“There were some days I didn’t think it was ever going to get built,” says Cooke. “And right when we reached the peak and thinking this was going to get done, something happened and it crashed. It was like the stock market -up and down, up and down.”

As the population of Northern Colorado continues to grow Cook says it became increasingly clear the region needed its own crime lab since everything was being sent to Denver for processing by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That caused significant delays and backlogs in analysis of evidence.

“They received evidence from all over the state. And so it all kind of funnels into CBI. So we looked at this and said how can we help our citizens but also help CBI because this is a big advantage for them,” said Cooke.

Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC
Weld County Commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Sean Conway welcome visitors to the new regional laboratory.

Echoing the comments of Sheriff Cooke, Fort Collins Council member Bob Overbeck says the opening of the lab is a sign Northern Colorado counties and cities understand the importance of working together. “I think this is just one piece of the puzzle as we complete regionalism here and fighting crime is one of that,” said Overbeck. “Transportation is going to be another and quite possibly maybe climate change, how we deal with climate issues.”

Greeley was selected after the land for the project was donated.

Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly says the location of the new lab is of little importance, since the services it will provide benefit all parties. “I don’t think tax payers and property owners and citizens of the region, I don’t think they know where their city boundary is, where their county boundary is,” said Donnelly. “I think they just want the services performed and they want them performed in a way that’s cost effective and efficient and I think they deserve they want and deserve good service for their money.”

Funds to construct the nearly 20,000 square foot facility on the west side of Greeley came entirely from the Weld county coffers. County Commissioner Sean Conway says it was all done without putting the county into debt. “Not only is there no debt incurred,” said Conway, “we completed this project two months ahead of schedule and $120,000 under budget.”

The lab will also house three members of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation alongside area forensic scientists analyzing digital media, fingerprints, DNA, tire and shoe impressions and firearms.

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