The state awarded a $34,179 grant to Jacksonville State University’s forensics lab and training center Friday to buy new equipment for collecting crime scene evidence.

The upgraded equipment will help the JSU Center for Applied Forensics continue providing its crime scene investigation services to law enforcement agencies across seven counties.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs awarded the grant to the center with money from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The money will be used to upgrade our cameras and laptop computers and printers that are used out at crime scenes,” said Mark Hopwood, director of the JSU center.

Similarly, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences received an $80,000 state grant Friday to buy supplies needed to perform autopsies and analyze controlled substances.

JSU created the center in 2011 to offer forensics services to area law enforcement agencies. The center currently provides services to agencies in Calhoun, DeKalb, Cherokee, Etowah, Cleburne, Randolph and St. Clair counties.

“We do a lot of continuing education and training too,” Hopwood said.

Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson said his department frequently enlists the center’s services.

“They help with shootings, murders, burglaries … gathering evidence is their speciality,” Thompson said. “Anytime we need a major crime scene worked, they answer the call.”

Anniston police Chief Shane Denham said his department calls the center to help with cases occasionally.

“They’re very helpful and all the departments in the area are lucky to have them,” Denham said. “They do anything they can to help and are a wealth of information.”

Hopwood said some of the grant money would also be used to help the center become nationally accredited. The center obtained a state grant last year to begin the accrediting process. The money this year will be used to pay auditors to inspect the center and to cover the cost of applying for accreditation.

Hopwood said it takes about two years for a forensics center to earn accreditation.

“It benefits the whole system to become accredited because it holds our work product to a national standard,” Hopwood said. “It makes for a better work product.”

 

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.