Houston City Council members agreed to provide additional funding to the Houston Forensic Science Center at a May 17 meeting to the tune of $1.95 million, which will come from American Rescue Plan Act funds. The new funding adds to the $3 million the city has already agreed to chip in to the center for a total of $4.95 million. The announcement comes after Mayor Sylvester Turner released the city's proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-24.

By the numbers

The $3 million, approved last year, will go toward lab enhancements, including:
  • Toxicology case outsourcing: $400,000
  • Overtime for crime scene unit and firearms investigation staff: $300,000
  • Firearms specialized training/technology: $900,000
  • Training of new analysts: $2 million
  • E-discovery and Justice Trax system upgrades: $500,000
  • Digital multimedia outsourcing: $600,000
  • Hiring temporary labor to support the Harris County Backlog Reduction program: $250,000
The details

In a May 17 statement announcing the additional funding, city officials said COVID-19 put a strain on forensic lab work. From 2020 to 2021, the Houston Forensic Science Center responded to 900 gun-related incidents, which included homicides, aggravated assaults, officer-involved shootings, death investigations and aggravated robbery.
A heatmap of gun-related crimes in the city of Houston from 2020 to 2021. (Courtesy city of Houston)
A heat map of gun-related crimes in the city of Houston from 2020 to 2021. (Courtesy city of Houston)
Quote of note

“I want to thank City Council for approving an additional $1.95 million in ARPA funds for the Houston Forensic Science Center, bringing our total investment to $4.95 million,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The center plays a critical role in public safety efforts in our city, and this funding will immediately be used to support recruitment efforts of skilled employees and solving crimes in areas with the highest crime rates, both components of my One Safe Houston initiative."

The bottom line

The city reported the HFSC experienced a turnover rate in 2022 of 15%, or 31 employees, compared to its prepandemic rate of 6%. The additional $1.95 million in funding will go toward recruiting employees. Officials said the average training time for a new employee is nearly two years and costs approximately $400,000. The $4.95 million builds on the $28.5 million the HFSC receives from the city annually for operations.