Success pushes Houston crime lab into financial crisis

Houston's state of the art crime lab is suffering from its own success. Turnaround time, or the speed at which cases are handled, has improved a whopping 48 percent in just a year with vastly improved quality.

As a consequence, the city's crime fighters are sending the Houston Forensic Science Center more potentially case-solving evidence than ever before, with requests up 35 percent.

"That's also a good thing because that means more things are being investigated. We want to see more work. We want more work," said Dr. Peter Stout, chief operating officer at the HFSC.

But Stout says there's a tough bottom line. Cracking crime has temporarily cracked the Houston Forensic Center's budget.

He's asking Mayor Sylvester Turner for an emergency $2.5 million to fill the gap and prevent crippling cutbacks, including potential layoffs that could occur in a matter of weeks, if not days.

"Turnaround times are going to have to go up. I'm afraid of backlogs that would build because the work keeps coming in," said Stout.

While he's fully committed to cutting crime, it's not the kind of request Mayor Turner welcomes at a time when city dollars are tight and other departments are cutting costs.

Today the mayor said this is the second increase the crime lab has requested since he took office in January.

"Don't come to me saying 'Mayor if you don't give me another  $2 million we are going to be laying off people and we are going to be getting behind.' That's not the way people run their households. That's not the way I intend to run this city and it's certainly not the way we are going to run the crime lab," said Turner.

Turner says he's planning a "deep dive" to determine whether the crime lab deserves the added investment.

Stout and his team believe they have the proof-of-performance to earn the Mayor's trust and the taxpayers' money.