Forensic lab testing of controlled substances surges in Va.
Submissions of suspected heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine and other drugs from police for testing by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science spiked last month, but it is not known why.
Figures presented by the department’s staff to the Forensic Science Board on Wednesday showed that for the first quarter of 2017 compared with the first quarter of this year, the numbers of controlled substance testing submissions were almost the same, 8,450 and 8,648, respectively.
However, comparing last April with this April, the number of submissions jumped 26 percent, or by 664.
The increase was most pronounced in the western part of the state, where it jumped 47 percent.
“It was definitely a shock,” Linda Jackson, director of the department, told the board. She said she could not explain the increase.
A representative from the Virginia State Police and other law enforcement representatives on the forensic science board said they were not aware of any big operation or push that could explain it.
The increase of more than 600 cases translates to the work of 2.5 additional chemists over a four-month period, Jackson said.
“I’ve already sent this information to the secretary of public safety and homeland security’s office,” she said. From there it was immediately sent to the department of planning and budget. “We’ll keep you posted,” she told the board.
She said that traditionally March and October have been the two months with the highest submissions, though the reasons for that are unclear as well.
The department receives tens of thousands of drug samples from law enforcement each year. The drugs include wellknown ones, such as marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, to lesser known “club drugs,” such as ecstasy, as well as prescription opioids and stimulants.