On July 27, Houston City Council members approved $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds in an agreement between the city and the Houston Forensic Science Center for partnership in forensic lab enhancements.

The ordinance is an extension of mayor Sylvester Turner’s One Safe Houston plan—a program intended to fight the increased crime in the city that has benefited from ARPA funds in the past. Originally, the HFSC was funded with $1.5 million under the plan, but the July 27 ordinance doubled the funds.

A pandemic-fueled spike in crime caused the HFSC to see a delayed implementation of technology and training needed to address the increase in cases, city officials wrote in the ordinance. As a result, a large backlog of toxicology requests emerged at the HFSC. Violent criminals with incomplete cases due to the backlog are still walking the streets, creating a cycle of more crime, according to city information.

The HFSC continues to suffer from staffing shortages and a high turnover rate, which causes current staff members to work overtime hours, according to the ordinance. With the funding boost, city officials said they hope to “augment” staffing shortages.

During the meeting, at-large Council Member Sallie Alcorn said the funding commitment was "a good start.” In the future, she said she would like to see the Houston Police Department less tied up with evidence that could be “more efficiently handled” by the HFSC.