Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $536,064)
The Forensic and Technical Services Section (F&TSS) is part of the Investigative Branch of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP). The F&TSS provides forensic services to the entire State of New Jersey. Within the F&TSS are the Office of Forensic Sciences (OFS) and the Forensic Services Bureau (FSB). The OFS maintains five forensic laboratories, which service over nine million residents in New Jersey: the Central, North, South, and East Regional Laboratories and DNA Laboratory. The four Regional Laboratories provide drug and toxicology analysis. Additionally, the Central Regional Laboratory provides trace analysis, while the South, East, and Central Regional Laboratories provide arson analysis and are responsible for taking in forensic biology cases. The FSB is comprised of the Ballistics Unit, the Forensic Imaging Unit, the Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, and the Crime Scene Investigations Unit. The State of New Jersey is currently experiencing a heroin and opioid epidemic. Compared to 2019, there was a decrease in the number of drug case submissions to the OFS in 2020. This was due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there was an increase in both pending drug assignments and backlogged drug cases within the Drug Unit of the OFS. Utilizing funds provided under the formula allocation of FY21 Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program, the F&TSS proposes to further enhance and develop its forensic capabilities and reduce the overall backlog and turnaround time of cases. Funding will be used to upgrade and replace existing equipment and to increase the capacity of the F&TSS, while supplies will be used in conjunction with the new equipment purchases. Funding for training will cover travel and registration costs and enable OFS analysts and Ballistics examiners to attend conferences related to drug, toxicology, trace evidence, and firearm and tool mark examination. Funding will also be awarded to State, county, and local forensic laboratories and Medical Examiners’ Offices through a competitive bid process. This funding will be utilized by those agencies to further enhance their forensic capabilities as well. It is expected that funding from the FY21 Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program (Formula) will improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science services throughout the State of New Jersey. Funding will also allow analysts and examiners to attend training that will give them the knowledge and skills to help improve the quality of services they provide and to conduct criminal investigations more efficiently for the State.