WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — In 2021 the Texas Department of Public Safety in Weslaco took in about 9,000 cases.
The DPS crime lab was implemented in 1937 at Camp Mabry in Austin and today there are 16 labs across the state.
ValleyCentral got an inside look at the DPS crime lab in Weslaco and how the staff works on solving crimes.
Forensic science is no easy task, especially when it comes to identifying fingerprints. In the latent prints lab, forensic scientists like Vanessa Robles go through countless pieces of evidence looking to identify a suspect, which requires a sharp eye.
“You guys also have to think this is a beautiful late imprint but a lot of the time we might just see part of it,” Robles said. “So a lot of the time we might not get the full print.”
The lab takes in evidence from not only the Rio Grande Valley but from 14 counties across the South Texas region. Evidence ranges from weapons to clothing and even food.
The crime lab also includes the firearms section which can identify guns used at a crime scene from bullets or cartridge cases. The tests include firing weapons into a water tank.
“What we normally do first is that we do a function test. We test them out to see if they are safe to fire so we can produce our test fires and then compare them that are submitted by the different agencies,” said Norma Luna.
Aside from collecting evidence, the lab is also tasked with testing blood alcohol levels as well testing for drugs.
While the work is never-ending, it’s something the lab workers take passion in.
“I just like looking through a microscope and looking at those minor differences and similarities,” said Richard Abanda.