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Around 29,000 criminal cases are stalled as GBI labs struggle with backlog

Around 29,000 criminal cases are stalled.

ATLANTA — The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation aims to dislodge tens of thousands of backlogged criminal cases from the state crime lab and into courtrooms across the state -- and an infusion of new state money will help. 

The GBI plans to hire nearly two dozen new scientists with the extra state money expected this year.

With violent crime surging in Atlanta and around Georgia in 2021, the GBI crime lab has been overworked and understaffed, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said.

"The primary backlog is in one area," he said. "(It) is in chemistry, is in drug identification." He said the abuse of new synthetic drugs makes drug identification trickier than ever.

Reynolds said the state crime lab has a backlog of about 29,000 cases which is up about 20% from about two years ago. To attack the backlog, the state plans to provide money to:

  • Hire 10 new medical examiners to do autopsies
  • Hire 22 new scientists including toxicologists, biologists and chemists.
  • The state is also providing $1.5 million dollars to update lab equipment.

The GBI processes evidence gathered in criminal cases for the state’s 159 counties.  When the evidence isn’t processed, those criminal cases can stall in court. Reynolds said the sheer volume of work likely means a permanent backlog in the crime lab but not one this large.

"We will always have some amount of cases here to work on. But our goal is to get that number down as low as we can," said Reynolds, a former Cobb County district attorney.

The GBI will be among the agencies across the state that will also give $5,000 raises to its employees, per a new budget introduced by Gov. Brian Kemp.