Evidence rooms need routine upkeep by local departments
Even police departments need to invest in good housekeeping.
Each year, members of the Pleasant Hills Police Department — and other departments in Allegheny County — take time to inventory and empty their evidence rooms. The closet-size spaces might contain weapons, drugs, property and cash that have been seized. Weapons are stored in gun safes.
The procedure begins with a letter to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. requesting permission to dispose of items from cases that have been solved or have had a ruling. Departments in the county must complete their work by April 15.
In Pleasant Hills, it is up to officer Jason Woleslagle and Sgt. Bryan Frankenfield to take the inventory — all caught on a motion-activated camera. Once the count is made, police Chief Brian Finnerty signs off on the tally.
“It's a taxing evidence audit every year,” Woleslagle said Some of the main items in their evidence room, he said, are drugs and drug paraphernalia. Drugs from law-enforcement agencies across the county are destroyed at the Allegheny County Police Department at predetermined times. Weapons also are destroyed. While property is stored by the state, money is sent to the district attorney's office.
Not much property is sent to the state from Pleasant Hills, Woleslagle said.
“The DA uses the money for drug-enforcement costs and grants for police departments,” said Tom Swan, Allegheny County deputy district attorney. He is a part of the Assets Forfeiture Unit and has been with the department for 26 years.
His unit oversees all county police departments with respect to the seizure, handling and storage of property.
While money from evidence rooms is first returned to rightful owners, any taken during gambling and drug seizures can be redistributed to police departments that make requests, Swan said. Owners of items seized from burglary-ring arrests have 90 days to make claims and retrieve their property.
The distribution of money to departments is determined by what they bring in through arrests and what the needs of departments might be. Perhaps half of the 120 departments make requests each year.
“The city brings in the most because it has the most cases,” he said.
Contributing funds for witness protection is the No. 1 priority, and replacing police equipment is second.
Brentwood police Chief Robert Butelli also can count a crossbow among the items in his evidence room. Marijuana and stamp bags of heroin found during routine traffic stops also have found their way into the department's locker. Only he and two officers have access to the locker contents.
After officials from the district attorney's office visits a township or borough, items are stored in bins until the destruction date is set.
But some items are kept as evidence, depending on the type of charges filed, said. Property seized in the commission of felonies can be stored for five years; for misdemeanors, two years; and summary offenses, 90 days.
Found property and unclaimed items can be retained by the state for up to 99 years. A knife, for example, could be kept until the criminal died in prison just because the blade contained DNA.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Female mascot makes Baldwin Highlander history
- New law requires Baldwin Borough residents to get permits for large containers
- Whitehall considers reversing alcohol rules
- Young musical writer’s work to be performed at J.E. Harrison Middle School
- South Hills talent at center stage for ‘Chorus Line’ performance
- Brentwood considers leasing newly built municipal center
- Baldwin High School latest stop on High School Nation tour
- Facebook friends help Brentwood police
- Plenty of treats for Halloween in South Hills
- New food services director hired in Brentwood