Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office building on Soquel Avenue.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office DNA lab project moves forward

Santa Cruz County leaders are moving forward with plans to create a Forensic DNA Laboratory for the county sheriff’s office, recently putting out a call for firms to submit bids to design the facility.

The Sheriff’s Office currently outsources DNA analysis of samples taken from crime scenes and individuals to the state’s Department of Justice and private labs. Sheriff Jim Hart and his staff want to bring these services in-house so they can analyze a wider number of samples and do so more quickly.

DNA analysis delays of “over 2 years are not uncommon” under the county’s current system. according to county staff.

Once the sheriff’s office can do its own DNA analyses, it will “provide much faster turn-around times, allow for more control and prioritization of our evidence to solve crimes in our county” and reduce the burden the county is putting on the state’s Department of Justice, according to a county document outlining the project.

The proposed 1,700-square-foot lab would be housed within the sheriff’s office headquarters at 5200 Soquel Avenue. The design portion of the project is estimated to cost $400,000. Between design and construction, the project is projected to cost $3.7 million.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors last week directed county staff “to return with an exclusive negotiation agreement with a qualified designer.” The process of finding firms to design the facility is now underway, with submissions due Wednesday.

The project is expected to come back to the Board of Supervisors for further approvals in late February.