Mark Hopwood, director of the Center for Applied Forensics, Wednesday stood proudly next to a Ford F550 that towered over every other vehicle in the parking lot.
“There’s not going to be any doubt this truck belongs to us,” he said noting that one of the many graphics on the vehicle was a scanned image of his actual fingerprint.
The truck, which would cost $150,000 new without the “bells and whistles,” was given to the Center for Applied Forensics in August as a crime scene response vehicle, Hopwood said Tuesday.
“It was bought by Dekalb County as a mobile methamphetamine unit,” he said. “It has since become under-used, as the method for making meth has changed. We spent no money to get this vehicle. It was a huge cost savings.”
Dekalb County District Attorney Mike O’Dell said by phone Tuesday that he was happy the truck was now in the center’s hands.
“I’m excited that it’s going to be utilized again,” he said. “This will be able to cross county lines packed with all the resources departments need to process a crime scene. It’s going to help not only our county but many others.”
The truck, in the three months the center has had ownership of the vehicle, has undergone several transformations, Hopwood said.
“Thus far we have outfitted it with LED lighting, added the logos and supplies that we already have,” he said. “But it’s not fully stocked yet.”
Inside the truck Wednesday was a desk, a bench, and several bare storage units.
“The truck is going to allow the center for Applied Forensics to maintain additional supplies as well as provide a secure and climate-controlled environment to both process and secure evidence while at a crime scene,” Hopwood said.
Empty shelves will soon be filled with supplies because of a $15,600 grant from the Edward Byrne Memorial JAG program through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Hopwood said.
“That announcement came to us last week,” he said. “We’re going to use that money to buy the high-dollar equipment like a new Nikon camera system, alternative light sources, laser trajectory kits and other tools.”
Local law enforcement agencies, who often use the center’s resources, helped stock the truck as well, Hopwood said.
“Assistant Chief Bill Wineman at Jacksonville put a lot of stuff on the truck,” Hopwood said opening a compartment on the outside of the truck Wednesday. “These are brand new tools that he was able to get us.”
Hopwood said Wineman used the Department of Defense’s Law Enforcement Support Office program to get the tools for the center.
Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said Wednesday that he was impressed with the truck, as he looked it up and down while it sat outside the center at McClellan.
“They are an essential part to crime scene investigation in northeast Alabama,” Partridge said. “They have often provided assistance to us and we have provided assistance to them. For some smaller agencies this will be a one- stop shop for crime scene investigation.”