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The City of Orangeburg received a Municipal Achievement Award for its Science Beats Crimes and Helps Education initiative. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's 74th Annual Meeting on July 12. The city won in the public safety category. Twenty-six cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
In 2004, the City of Orangeburg and Claflin University forged a partnership to improve forensic laboratory services in the hope of reducing crime in the area. Officials from both entities recognized that forensic evidence critical to solving local criminal cases was not being processed quickly enough, causing a dangerous backlog of services necessary for convictions. Meanwhile, offenders who were out on bond and awaiting trial enjoyed ample time to commit additional crimes.
Members of the state's Congressional delegation secured much of the funding for a full-service forensics laboratory at Claflin University. More than $1 million was spent to renovate existing space and buy equipment for the state-of-the-art facility.
The city employs two crime scene investigators, a forensic chemist and an evidence technician for the lab. Claflin employs two full-time staff members for the lab, which today 17 municipalities, four counties, and several state agencies use. More than 4,000 cases have been processed at the lab so far, often with results returned within a week.
As the lab processes the DNA, it creates a profile in a local database to generate police investigation leads and to help identify suspects. Soon, officials hope the laboratory will receive additional accreditation that will allow it to analyze more serious crimes and a greater number of cases.
"Orangeburg and Claflin's partnership has meant safety and peace of mind for many in the City of Orangeburg and beyond," said Miriam Hair, executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. More information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website.
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.