Redesigning Storage for the Whitehall Police Department Yields Arresting Results in a Limited Space
Evidence room space is always at a premium. In most instances, creating more space is done by either constructing a new area specifically for that purpose, or by an “up-fit,” where walls are moved or torn down to accommodate expansion. There are situations, of course, where neither of those options is available. In those cases, the space is the space. When that happens, what can be done? Is it worth the time and expense to reconfigure? The answer is a resounding yes.
The Whitehall Division of Police in Whitehall, Ohio certainly plays a large role in the community. Its physical footprint, however, is on the smaller side. Across the country, this is a common discrepancy for many such institutions. The evidence room in Whitehall measured just 371 square feet. With only so much room available, the evidence room was full. Front-loaded evidence lockers were situated in the hallway outside the small room to accommodate the overflow.
“There just wasn’t enough room for everything,” said Richard Zitzke, the chief of police. “We needed help to ensure that all of the evidence we keep track of was kept in an organized fashion. That helps us do our jobs, and it ensures proper handling of evidence come trial time.”
Patterson Pope’s experience with other police departments and its expertise in designing flexible solutions was the ideal answer to Whitehall’s dilemma.
Eric Martin, Patterson Pope’s account representative for the project, was intrigued by the challenge. “As a company, we thrive on devising workable designs,” he said. “The first thing we did was perform a site analysis. We saw what we were working with, discovered what the client was looking for, and then went about designing improvements. The Whitehall space was extremely limited, but from the outset I could see the potential. It was exciting to get in there and see what we could do.”
Designing for evidence storage requires accommodating many different-sized items. What’s more, there’s no schedule for when or how many items will come in. Some critical items are kept indefinitely, so determining a space for those items was a prime consideration, as well. Given those factors, flexibility was a key concern.
After some consultation and planning, the new design took form. A little re-imagining was the first step. Patterson Pope took over an adjoining storage room, creating an evidence processing room in its place. The area now includes pass-thru evidence lockers – including a refrigerated pass-thru – and a drying rack. There’s even an area for a desk, creating a comfortable space to write reports. The new layout makes chain-of-custody more contained and secure.
For the evidence room itself, four standard bin storage sizes were identified, allowing for accommodation of a variety of different items. Spacesaver Wheelhouse Mobile Shelving Systemswere installed as well, which maximized floor space and improved the visual asthetic of the room.
Public Safety Storage Solutions included:
- Spacesaver Pass-Thru Evidence Lockers Built into the wall that separates the evidence processing area from the property and evidence room. It was specifically designed to provide an extra-secure chain of custody.
- High-Density Shelving Utilizing vertical space. An altered version of the shelving was also incorporated for use as a long-gun rack.
- Refrigerator Locker/Drying Cabinet Specifically engineered to maintain a constant temperature of 38 to 42 degree Fahrenheit, ideal for DNA and biological storage. Also features a built-in condensate removal system.
“We were able to not only maximize the space, but improve the team’s productivity,” added Martin. “In the end, our solutions are only effective if they achieve the client’s goals. Here, we definitely did that.”
Today, the evidence room looks brand new. Items that stay indefinitely are housed in the back, where they’re out of the way. Smaller items are kept in clearly labeled bins. Weapons are safely locked away. DNA and other biological evidence are properly refrigerated. The improved organization makes evidence handling, storage, tracking and retrieval easier. The space’s functionality has even had an effect on the department’s morale.
“We’re all proud of our facility, and the freshened evidence room is certainly a part of that,” said Chief Zitzke. “It was important that we maintain it as a functional space, and Patterson Pope did a great job of keeping that in mind. We’re pleased with the results. We can now fit three times the amount of property in there than we could before. It’s been a terrific upgrade.”
Given the nature of police work, it seems as though there’s never enough room. In this case, Patterson Pope helped the Whitehall Division of Police maximize the benefit of their established footprint. The difference can be seen not only in the physical transformation of the space, but also in its workability and the satisfaction of those who use it every day.