NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News gave you a look inside the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab in Nashville.
We take you back to the facility for a look at how the agency solves major crimes.
New technology has radically changed how law enforcement investigates violent crimes. No agency knows this more than the TBI, whose headquarters in Nashville employs almost 100 scientists, dedicated to helping solve major crimes.
On the tour, the TBI showed WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News a device they use to detect blood at a crime scene, even when those substances aren’t clear to the naked eye.
Some blood evidence can last more than 20 years, meaning some cold cases don’t stay cold for very long.
The ballistics lab was the next stop, where scientists test guns and bullets.
“It takes two years to train somebody to become a forensic scientist, to do firearms work–in order to qualify they have to have a degree in natural science with a minimum 24 semester hours college work in chemistry,” Mike Lyttle, assistant director of forensic services, said.
That job involves checking the “fingerprint” of bullets and weapons used in crimes.
“Maybe the safety mechanisms on that firearm don’t work properly. Maybe it went off accidentally. Maybe we’re wanting to do distance determination to figure out how far away somebody may have been when they fired the firearm,” Lyttle said.
The TBI can also trace if the firearm was used in other crimes, thanks to a database by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That database is called the National Integrated Ballistic Information System.
“It’s not unusual for that same gun to be used in multiple crimes, and it’s very important for us to be able to link one crime to another, and you can almost, for no extra charge, solve a bunch of extra crimes,” Lyttle said.
When it comes to the crime scene itself, the TBI is using cutting edge technology.
With high-tech lasers, the TBI can recreate a scene, which can help prosecutors and investigators who may not have been at the location.
Other technology includes a camera that can take a 360-degree look of a room, and then make a 3-D reconstruction of the scene, which can help determine distance and help illustrate the details of a crime.
The TBI isn’t just using it for homicides.
“To work homicide cases was sort of our bread and butter for a long time, but with law enforcement use of force cases, the crime lab has taken an active role in those,” Lyttle said.
In less than two years, a new TBI Crime Lab will open in Jackson with a price tag of around $50 million.
That lab will have a lot of the same technology, and will help keep evidence collected in West Tennessee closer to investigators.