Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco, USF seek statewide forensics research lab

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County is seeking to become home to a proposed statewide forensic anthropology research and training center.

The center, if legislators and Gov. Rick Scott agree to the $4.3 million price tag, would be built on 4 acres of county-owned land in Land O'Lakes near the Pasco County Detention Center. It would be the seventh such facility in the country.

The project is a proposed partnership among Pasco County, the Pasco Sheriff's Office, the University of South Florida and Pasco-Hernando State College. It calls for indoor and outdoor facilities, including research and service labs, classrooms, a morgue and evidence storage to serve the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Sciences research center at USF, which started in 2014 and already serves law enforcement and medical examiners around Florida.

If approved, the center would be a working crime lab and would provide specialized hands-on training for professionals dealing with investigations into homicides, human trafficking and other violent crimes. USF's website characterizes the project as allowing law officers to work alongside researchers to better understand crime scenes and to apply the latest investigative techniques "to become highly skilled at collecting, processing and interpreting evidence in their cases.''

Though plans are preliminary, said Dr. Stan Giannet, vice president of academic affairs at PHSC, the center potentially could be part of offering job-training certificates and associate degrees in crime scene technology through PHSC.

The center also could attract researchers from around the country, and Pasco County envisions it as the anchor for developing an industrial cluster tied to forensics.

"From a public safety standpoint, this is a home run,'' Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

"It's a big deal,'' said Pasco Commissioner Mike Wells Jr., who urged fellow commissioners to sign a letter to legislators supporting the project.

Whether state dollars are available is another story. The Florida House Appropriations Committee forecast released Jan. 10 called for flat budget revenue for the fiscal year starting July 1 and a combined $3.2 billion shortfall for the 2018 and 2019 budget years.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Rep. Danny Burgess, R-San Antonio, will seek the appropriation. Burgess said he was optimistic the state would fund the effort.

"The Tampa Bay region needs a centralized forensics location that will give law enforcement agencies the tools to prevent and solve crimes,'' Burgess said via email. "I think that the Legislature realizes what an important task this is, and that's why I am hopeful we can get this funding in the budget."

The center would be in the House district of Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and Nocco has had success in procuring state appropriations. In 2015, when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed more than $8.4 million in Pasco-specific appropriations — including money for an elderly nutrition kitchen and transitional housing for the homeless — he left untouched $1 million for a new gun range sought by the Sheriff's Office.

Nocco commended Simpson for seeking the appropriation, even though the forensics center would not be in his district. The sheriff also said he was confident of securing the funding.

"I'm very optimistic,'' said Nocco. ''There is nothing about this project that is a negative.''

Pasco, USF seek statewide forensics research lab 01/13/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 5:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Goodell, union, players to meet on social issues and anthem

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, owners of each team, representatives of the players' union and players themselves will meet Tuesday to discuss ways to "move from protest to progress."

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference in February at the Super Bowl Media Center in Houston. [Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS]
  2. Clearwater attorney accused of condo foreclosure trickery fights back

    Real Estate

    The Clearwater lawyer accused of tricking a bidder into paying $458,100 for a gulf-front condo now plans to contest a judge's order tossing out the sale.

    John Houde, left, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground, in August during a hearing Sixth Judicial Circuit court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse. The judge agreed with Houde's allegation that he was duped by Skelton in thinking he bought a Redington Beach condo for $458,100 out of a foreclosure auction. Now Skelton is fighting back. 
[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  3. Online retailer pulls 'Anne Frank' Halloween costume amid backlash

    Human Interest

    Who thought this was a good idea?

    A screenshot shows a children's costume once advertised as an 'Anne Frank' costume on HalloweenCostumes.com. [Screengrab via fancydress.com]
  4. Wins record in reach for Phil Hayford after nearly four decades of coaching

    Footballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — Phil Hayford always wanted to be a football coach.

    Keswick Christian football coach Phil Hayford in the huddle during practice at the school in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2017. Hayford is one win shy of tying the Pinellas County record for overall wins. Hayford, 70, has an overall record of 194-143, which includes 33 years at Shorecrest and two at Keswick.
  5. Police: Woman shoots, kills teen who tried to carjack her in Clearwater

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — A woman shot and killed an 18-year-old who tried to carjack her Monday night, police said.

    One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it on Oct. 16, 2017, Clearwater police said. The unidentified car owner reported the theft, at the Bank of America at the corner of Belcher and Belleair roads, to police around 8 p.m. The car owner also fired shots at the thieves. [Clearwater Police Department]