Space-Optimizing Storage Streamlines Operations At State Crime Lab

When the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory in Madison moved into 50,000 renovated square feet in a 40-year old building recently, they more than doubled their space, allowing them to streamline operations. They brought formerly split departments together, consolidated evidence from multiple locations into one, and gained space for archival records previously stored off-site.

The firearms room was the biggest challenge, according to Crime Lab Program Assistant Supervisor Barbara Henning, because the space designated for the Lab's extensive gun collection was smaller than before. “But then Sandra Freeman (Storage Systems Midwest, Inc., a Spacesaver Area Contractor) walked into my life and showed us how high-density mobile storage could really maximize the capacity of the space,” she said. “We ended up with three Spacesaver mobile systems, one each for the archives, firearms and evidence.”

William Newhouse, forensic scientist firearms/tool-marks examiner, said the problem in the firearms room was accommodating the wide variety of designs and dimensions of the 1,500 handguns and 1,000-plus long guns that he uses for parts, comparisons, training and, occasionally, exemplars in court. With no two alike, standard pistol cradles would not work. “I needed to be able to store everything from 3-inch Derringers to 45-inch shotguns,” he said.

A mobile system, customized with Trak Wall and pegs for the handguns, plus Spacesaver weapons racks for the long guns, was the solution. “Storing handguns on a rod up the muzzle is a good way to view them, organize them and get a lot of them up in a square-foot area,” said Newhouse. Pegboard walls accommodate odd-sized weapons. Ammunition is stored elsewhere on heavy-duty 4-post shelving with nine 1/4-inch shelves matched to the box sizes.

“The high-density system has worked well,” said Newhouse. “The benefits are extraordinary in terms of maximizing space. With everything now contained in one room, security is also improved. I can lock it up.”

A powered mobile system not only consolidated evidence into one central area, but also quadrupled the space for evidence storage. The powered operation assures smooth starts and stops, so evidence is not dislodged. To optimize space, shelves were sized to fit the plastic totes used for case evidence. Barcodes record locations on the shelves and help the department track custody.

The evidence specialists store all types of evidence — each piece hermetically sealed in boxes, bags, paint cans, plastic, etc. — including large items like tires and fenders. “Before, everything was packed on static shelving, and, if you wanted something in the back, you had to move all the things in front,” said Evidence Specialist Delores Larson. “Now with Spacesaver, everything's in one area, accessible and condensed,” added Fran Lutz, also an Evidence Specialist.

In the new archives room, a mechanical assist mobile system provides 26,712 linear feet of storage for records recently brought on-site, as well as future growth. Depending on the crime, archival records must be kept 20 to 75 years. The high-density mobile system also freed up space for a much-needed desk, computers and workspace for boxing files within the same room.

“I love the organization of the Spacesaver solutions , as well as the confidentiality and accessibility of the archived files, having them where I need them,” said Henning. “It's just perfect!”

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