DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners have given the nod for a county-owned crime scene vehicle that Sheriff Graham Atkinson said is critically needed by his department.
During its last meeting, the board OK’ed an outlay of $13,406 to upfit one of the department’s existing vehicles and convert it into a department-owned crime scene unit.
The plan is to use the 2007 Dodge Durango assigned to Atkinson and re-fit it with a cargo carrier specifically designed to hold the crime scene equipment.
“We have purchased a ‘storage container,’ for lack of a better word, that fits that vehicle and is designed to hold crime scene equipment,” Atkinson said.
He noted that the cost of equipment would be much higher, but out-of-pocket purchases by one of his detectives has helped to greatly defray the cost.
“Over time, we have had a particular detective who has spent a lot of his own money buying equipment and he is willing to let us use it,” he said. “Traditionally we’ve had to rely on the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to process these crime scenes.”
With the detective-owned equipment, the cost to put together a department vehicle makes the idea workable, Atkinson noted.
And using the SBI can sometimes add critical hours to an investigation.
“They’ll always send someone, but sometimes they have to come from across the state,” he said, noting county investigators can sometimes wait for hours for a crime scene unit to arrive.
“The other reason we need this vehicle is that over the past several years the standard of proof (in court) has become greater, requiring more evidence and detailed analysis,” he said. “This vehicle will help with that.”
Atkinson said the department wants to use the older vehicle due to the wear and tear on crime scene units, noting the idea is to give the department’s existing high-mileage vehicles a last gasp at life.
“A lot of times these crime scenes are in rough terrain and they can get dinged up pretty good,” he said. “We’re going to use this vehicle and rotate one of our existing SUVs that’s been on the road a while into its place.”
The department will then purchase another vehicle to replace that SUV.
“Hopefully in the future we can continue in the future to rotate out our older SUVs into crime scene units,” he said.
The sheriff said he appreciates the support of the board of commissioners.
“We have had conversations in the past and they were very aware of the amount of time we spend at crime scenes and just how much has to be processed,” he said. “They were aware of the need and responded to it by helping us have the resources to do our job.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.