When it comes to proper evidence storage, being able to upgrade products and facilities is always a welcome opportunity. Sometimes, it’s imperative.
On average, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s (VCSO) evidence storage facility receives hundreds of new items every month – about 20,000 over the course of a year. Prior to early 2019, those items had been housed inside an old Volusia County prison built in 1938. Not constructed with evidence storage in mind, the building nonetheless served its purpose valiantly. Still, with issues ranging from narrow doorways and inadequate space (e.g., some boxes/records were stored in old cells with the cots removed) to a susceptibility to occasional flooding and even the odd reptile incursion, the structure’s days in that capacity were numbered. While the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies always found the space in good order, with time a move to something newer, bigger and better became inevitable.
Good Things Come to Those who Wait
Moving from one end of the spectrum to the other, today the VCSO’s brand new evidence warehouse sits near the Sheriff’s Office Training Facility and the Emergency Operations Center. Close to four years in the planning, the space features ceilings designed to accommodate custom 20-foot-tall ActivRAC “high-bay” mobile shelving. Features also include nearly 290,000 square feet of workspace along with brand new, state-of-the-art efficiencies in air quality, safety and security.
Here, storage was more than merely a part of the project; indeed, it was the project! The nearly 300,000 square foot facility provides evidence storage only – a far cry from a Depression-era prison farm.
“We had a strong relationship with the general contractor (GC) and did a lot of work with the architect,” said Patterson Pope Sales Representative Ron Nienhuis. “Being able to collaborate so closely with the customer, the GC and the architects, allowed us to ensure that the VCSO got not only the best products, but that those products were seamlessly integrated into the design of the space.”
The Height of Innovation
Given the large numbers of pieces of evidence that needed to be stored in the facility, a great deal of thought was given to planning not just for today’s needs, but tomorrow’s requirements, as well. The new building boasts a pair of large evidence rooms, along with several smaller rooms, offices, a bicycle storage room (with bike racks), a garage and a carport area.
The core of the storage solution was the installation of custom XTend High-Bay Mobile Storage units, each measuring 4’ deep, 20’ high and 40’ long. Powered by a dozen ActivRAC carriages, the units can easily accommodate as many evidence boxes as required – and leave plenty of space for collection growth.
“Every aisle has what’s called Automated Guided Vehicle technology, or AGV,” said Nienhuis. “Essentially, it allows the mechanical order pickers that move up and down the aisles to be operated with more precision and safety. It’s a great added feature.”
A team of nine technicians work at the facility, and there are generally never more than a dozen people in the building at any one time.
All Sorts of Evidence, All Kinds of Solutions
In the process of taking the VCSO’s evidence inventory, Nienhuis said he and his team ran across all kinds of items. These included rolls of carpet, car bumpers, rifles and different kinds of guns, hockey sticks, and even a bunch of machines confiscated from a site running an illegal gambling operation. It’s important to bear in mind, he said, that some pieces of evidence have to be kept for decades, even forever in some cases.
“Providing the right public safety storage solution means understanding what kinds of evidence will be stored, how it needs to be stored and for how long it might be kept,” said Nienhuis. “Every situation is different. At Patterson Pope, we enjoy the problem-solving aspect of each product.”
Patterson Pope provided items from over 13 manufacturers to the VCSO’s new facility. In addition to the ActivRAC, there are evidence storage lockers, pallet racking, bike racks, work tables, and more. Items like long guns and narcotics are kept under “triple security,” meaning that access to them requires opening three separate locked areas. Think of it as the “Russian Doll” of evidence protection.
The Right Resource
“Here in Florida, property and evidence facilities follow a somewhat standard footprint,” added Nienhuis. “Our designers and architects who do this kind of work are very adept at tailoring solutions to an individual space, as we did here. Every one of the 65 counties in Florida has some type of evidence storage facility. We look at the size of the items that a customer is going to be storing and we actually plan the separation inches from shelf to shelf so that evidence fits really well. In doing so, we save them about 30-percent capacity.”
Volusia County will be well served for years to come thanks in no small part to the efficient workings of this new evidence storage facility. Patterson Pope is proud to have been able to offer such a wide variety of product solutions. Another especially noteworthy example is a “mobile post lift” from Mohawk. The device can lift a 72,000 pound truck, allowing law enforcement to look underneath for drugs and other contraband.
To Protect and Serve
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has a mission statement that reads, “To protect and serve with courage, honor and integrity by fighting crime, maintaining trust, and building community partnerships.” As part of that, certainly, the commitment to exceptional evidence storage is a large component.
In the world of evidence storage, quality products and precision performance mean more than accreditation; they ensure peace of mind.
To learn more about this project check out the Case Study.