3,500 backlog of gun cases in Monroe County crime lab

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — 3,500 gun cases are sitting in the county’s crime lab unprocessed. That was revealed at a public meeting Tuesday night. Wednesday, News10NBC wanted to find out why and if the backlog is getting any gun cases thrown out of court.

The county says the backlog has not delayed or dismissed any gun cases. But it’s caused them to search for more money, cut a deal with the ATF for help and try to hire another gun expert.

The situation came up in Tuesday night’s county legislature meeting when lawmakers were asked to approve a $57,000 grant for the crime lab.

The director of the lab was asked to reveal the backlog of cases.

"Our current backlog in the drug section is 2,700 cases," John Clark said. "In firearms, it’s 3,500."

Clark said the gun backlog is higher than ever before. And he was questioned by lawmakers.

Legislator Yversha Roman, (D) Gates, Greece, Rochester: "Can you explain why the firearms cases are increased? Why is there a backlog in those cases?"

John Clark, Monroe County Crime Lab: "In 2019, the firearm section had 1,000 submissions. In 2020, they had 1,595. And in 2021, they had 1,900 cases submitted."

The president of the legislature said she’s been contacted by RPD officers concerned about the backlog.

Sabrina LaMar, Legislature President (D) Rochester: "I’m wondering what’s the plan to speed up the ballistic testing in order to give RPD what they need?"

Clark: "We are in the process of hiring an additional firearms examiner. And we do work closely with the city of Rochester to prioritize their cases."

Here is the statement from Chief Richard Tantalo, Director of the Monroe County Department of Public Safety:

The number of firearms submissions to the Monroe County Crime Lab has almost doubled in the past two years (2019: 1,000 submissions – 2021: 1900 submissions). Nonetheless, there have been no delays in any court cases or prosecution of gun-related crimes due to evidence processing. Evidence for criminal prosecutions are always prioritized by the crime lab.

To help expedite processing evidence, the county is hiring an additional firearms examiner to work on these cases and others. In addition, the county has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to assist with our unprecedented caseload of gun-related crimes.

Public safety is of paramount importance and we ensure investigators and prosecutors have the evidence they need to investigate and prosecute violent crime. Our new hire and agreement with the ATF will help ease this record gun-related caseload.

Here is the statement from RPD:

Yes, we’re aware of firearm-related evidence that is waiting to be processed at the Monroe County Crime Lab. We’re currently working with Monroe County and our law enforcement partners to assist the Crime Lab in processing these pieces of evidence in a shorter period of time. The Monroe County Crime Lab is operated independently of the Rochester Police Department, but we will continue to fully support and assist them in any way we can.

There were 349 shootings in the city last year and 81 homicides.

The legislature approved the grant for the crime lab unanimously.