New Crime Lab in New Mexico Working to Crack Down on the Drug War

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

NEW MEXICO - A new way to crack down on the drug war. A state-wide crime lab recently opened it's doors in Hobbs. It's only one of three across the state, and it's already bringing change to police procedure even the courtroom.

It may look like a chemistry classroom, but all the microscopes, charts, and test tubes are a part of the first crime lab in Southeastern New Mexico.

"We have quite a large amount that comes from this area," Hobbs Crime Lab Bureau Chief, Mark Salvo, said. "We had about 500 cases last year from this area and the state, so we feel this is an appropriate place to address that need."

The crime lab opened up in February and has the capability of becoming a full-service operation but right now they're focusing on drug testing. Every day, two chemists and the Bureau Chief, sift through almost twenty tests.

"I think that the benefit it provides is that there is usually a concern with the District Attorney's Office on the timeliness of the analysis," Salvo said.

The officers check the evidence and it goes into the vault. Depending on the severity of the case, then it heads into the chemical lab. Once the evidence hits the table, they do a color test with the drug to determine what they think it might be. Then they take it to the instrument room and in a ten minute time frame, they can decifer exactly what the substance is.

"I think they are an invaluable tool for law enforcement especially when it comes to the war on drugs," Forensic Scientist, Karla Nardoni, said. "I think it's extremely important because we're assisting the cops. We're working with them on identifying a drug and depending on what type of drug you have people charged differently."

Before the lab opened up, county and city officials spent hundreds of hours driving evidence back and forth from the other two state labs in Santa Fe and Las Cruces.

"We have expensive gas, food, hotel stay if required, but I think financially isn't as important as getting the work done in a timely manner," Nardoni said.

The crime lab holds a price tag of over $1 million - split between the state, Lea County, and the City of Hobbs. And it's not finished yet - the Bureau Chief hopes to expand the lab adding new elements like DNA and firearm testing.