Future Tri-County DNA crime lab center expected to tackle criminal case backlog

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 4:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 8:13 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester County Sheriff’s Offices will partner in a new high-tech facility they expect will help them solve crimes faster.

The new Tri-County Biological Science Center will process DNA in criminal cases when it comes online in about five years.

As of right now, DNA is processed primarily through the state.

The center’s newly appointed director says there’s a big demand for the services the center will provide. The center will provide DNA analysis for crimes like homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, and burglaries, as well as smaller crime classes like if someone were to break into your car.

“There’s just a lot of demand and I’ve heard of from our stakeholders that there’s sometimes year gaps or backlogs in getting your case back to you so we’re trying to expedite that time,” Director Tom Van Koughnett said.

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano said she’s seen two-to-three-year delays in cases.

“As the Tri-County region grows and explodes in population, so does the caseload for the people processing and investigating crimes,” Graziano said.

Graziano said the center will help them identify those who commit crimes, but also exonerate people who may be wrongfully accused, speeding up the judicial process and keeping the community safer.

“A lot of those cases that we’ve seen that are being continued in the courts system, are continuing to be continued because that evidence is not ripe, it’s not ready, it’s not in yet,” Graziano said.

The $10-million project will include the construction of a 10,000-square-foot building on Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.

The design-build process is expected to begin in late 2022, and construction should begin in early 2024. The lab is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2025, but a two-year accreditation process must take place before DNA can be processed.

The director says the goal is for the center to start accepting cases in 2027.