The New York Police Department lost tons of crucial DNA and other evidence when two of its warehouses were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Now, Gotham’s justice system is struggling to produce the materials in court.
Located in New York Harbor, the Erie Basin auto pound and evidence warehouse housed hundreds of seized cars, 9,846 barrels of evidence containing sensitive DNA, and thousands of guns. As the storm battered the city, the surge ruptured the warehouse’s doors and plunged its content into the water.
According to the NYPD, this included 1,177 barrels of DNA evidence at the Kingsland Avenue location. Approximately 5,000 “narcotics items” and 3,250 firearms were also stored at the Erie Basin warehouse, Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department revealed to the New York Times.
The disaster is now affecting the US court system, where on at least six occasions an officer had to testify that evidence was inaccessible, but still existed, according to the police department. That number is feared to rise.
Evidence for an anticipated rape trial in Manhattan has also gone missing from the rape kit. Now, the defense team is feeling the heat as items stored in the kit were to be used to prove their client’s innocence. The lawyers now claim to have received a message that the prosecutor might recommend a dismissal of the case because the hair sample did not match their client’s.
Over twenty officers have been assigned to recover evidence at the two warehouses while the department contemplates hiring a private contractor to sort through the damaged documents – many of which have been contaminated with various substances, including raw sewage
Just before Sandy battered the New York Metropolitan Area in late October, the US Justice Department allocated $1.25 million to a project that would allow the NYPD to store and organize DNA evidence in hopes of overturning wrongful convictions. Since August, law enforcement staff have been working to consolidate five warehouses, including the two destroyed ones, into a single location.