Foren­sic lab test­ing of con­trolled sub­stances surges in Va.

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - LOCAL PERSPECTIVES - BY FRANK GREEN fgreen@timesdis­patch.com (804) 649-6340

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.

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