For example, the term ‘latent prints’ means finding finger prints that are hidden. They’ve found them on the tip of a bullet and on tape that was used to bind a victim in a robbery. They use super glues, dye-stains or a chemical process to see prints you can’t see with the naked eye.
“Fingerprints won’t tell you who did it, but it will at least give you a name, some information. The only thing we can say in fingerprints is that they touched that object,” said Forensic Scientist Norman Henderson.
The Latent Print Lab is one of three that make up the Midwest Regional Forensic Lab housed inside the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. There’s a DNA lab and the drug chemistry lab which identifies everything from THC levels to fentanyl. With a budget of $2 million and 16 scientists, law enforcement from Anoka, Sherburne and Rice Counties rely on them to get to the truth.
“The evidence we’re getting, we don’t know what’s on there. And we’re just finding out through our testing what’s there and what’s not there,” said Assistant Lab Director Shawn Gallagher. “Whatever case comes in we’re neutral. It doesn’t matter what somebody says is supposed to be on there, we do our testing to find out what really is there.”
It’s the only lab in Minnesota to win the Project FORESIGHT Maximus Award given to the top 15 labs in the world by faculty from West Virginia University who analyze crime lab data. They’ve won it two years in a row.
Property crimes like auto theft or burglary are a specialty.
“People are very much affected when somebody breaks into their house or steals their car, and we take great pride in working those types of cases,” says Gallagher.
In 2019, the lab worked on more than 2300 cases. After a slight drop in 2020, case numbers have picked up again this year.