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New evidence room is far more secure

Opened three years after &

36;15,000 was stolen out of the Medford Police Department's evidence room, the new property control building is a fortress compared to the former facility, police say.

— — — — — Related story:

? . — — Cameras monitor the perimeter of the gated compound and various locations inside the new 6,500-square-foot building. The facility houses a vehicle storage area and office space in addition to the rows upon rows of shelving available for evidence and property storage.

Completed in November 2000, the new facility cost nearly &

36;1 million. The City Council approved its construction on the heels of the evidence room theft in lieu of building a vehicle impound lot.

The city parks department off Columbus Avenue was remodeled to accommodate the police department's property control division. A new structure houses parks department offices that were displaced in the move.

Employees enter the new property control facility with key cards that record on a computer system the date, time and person who entered. Property control clerks can call up all the log-ins on their computers. Log-ins are printed up at the end of the month and filed away.

Comparing security in the old property control office, which didn't even have an alarm, to the new facility is like the difference between night and day, said property control clerk Marlene Scudder.

Officers only have access to a room where they prepare their evidence before placing it in a slam locker, which locks once it's closed. The wall of slam lockers separates the prep area from the inner sanctum of property control. The evidence is removed from the lockers when property control clerks open a metal grate from the other side. Three property control clerks and Lt. Craig Amann are the only ones who can move around in the property storage areas.

The old evidence room had locking slam lockers, but they were mounted on a wall, and property control clerks had to unlock them in close proximity to where officers were preparing evidence. The new setup safeguards against tampering, Amann said.

Clerks tag all property with a bar code and log it into the computer. Records in the old facility were kept by hand. Amann performs random monthly audits. Using a hand-held scanner similar to those in retail stores, he monitors the location of every article seized or recovered by police.

Cash that's seized for evidence purposes is now kept in a safe housed in a separate locked room along with firearms boxed for storage. Drugs have their own room, too.

A biohazard room with a drain set into the floor is a sanitary and convenient place for bloodied or soiled clothing to dry. Four large freezers hold fluid evidence. There's even a spot for stashing inmates' belongings in excess of what the county jail will store until their release.

Just 10 to 20 percent of the available storage area has been used. The facility should meet the police department's needs for many years to come, Amann said. The building was constructed with a 10-year plan in mind, Amann told reporters when the property control facility opened its doors in January 2001.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .