Groundbreaking delayed for GBI crime lab in Pooler

POOLER, GA (WTOC) - A new GBI crime lab coming to the area is pushing back construction plans. The current lab admitted to WTOC in May - they were already busting at the seams.

We noticed initial construction that was supposed to start back in August never took place. Just today - we found out that new timeline will begin October 1st.

Neither the Coastal Regional Crime Lab, the Mayor of Pooler, or local law enforcement agencies who rely on this lab every day were notified of its postponed construction.

The GBI Headquarters tells us they just met yesterday, and claim the development of this new crime lab is different than a regular commercial property.

They say they must follow specific State of Georgia due processes. The current lab is doing everything in their power to keep up with current resources.

As the population continues to grow, they say time is ticking.

"It's past due happening now," said Ross Butler, Manager of GBI Coastal Crime Lab. "We need this new facility so we can continue to grow and keep up with the demand in the future."

The completion date of January 2019 is now pushed back to April of 2019. While it may seem like only three months, some can't afford to wait.

The facilities, such as law enforcement agencies or the Rape Crisis Center - who rely on the crime lab every day for answers didn't even know there was a delay.

Law enforcement agencies use crime labs every day to test DNA for homicides. Burglaries.

"We really do not have adequate personnel and resources to keep up with the demand of cases that's coming in right now," said Butler.

Also included in that demand, rape kits. Cases become backlogged and victims suffer waiting for answers.

"We trust you, we believe you and we want to help you," said Kesha Gibson-Carter, Director, Rape Crisis Center. "The evidence of that help starts with processing the rape kit."

The Rape Crisis Center saying the process already takes too long.

"What are your rates of arrest? What are your rates of conviction," said Gibson-Carter.

Law enforcement says the legal system is no stranger to waiting years for DNA in cases. Homicides, burglaries, and rapes all depend on these crime labs.

The biggest concern? Population growth in the area. Will our community be able to wait even an additional day for case processing to improve?

"As the population in this area continues to grow, we will need that additional facility and resources in the future," said Butler.

This delay isn't simply about a building. For some, it's delayed justice.

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.