Delays at North Carolina's state crime laboratory have grown so bad that Winston-Salem city officials are hiring a private company to test alcohol and drug evidence. The crime lab will likely be ready to go by spring.

Law enforcement officials say the move will dramatically improve the prosecution of cases involving defendants accused of driving drunk or dealing drugs.

Winston-Salem Police forensics services supervisor Karen Watson says that blood-alcohol and drug evidence can take months to test at the state crime lab. She says the local lab will be able to test evidence within days.

Watson told the Winston-Salem Journal that workers will be at the city's public safety training center Monday to start setting up equipment for the crime lab.

Results in nearly 370 local cases were waiting as of mid-November. Almost 300 of those involved DWI charges.

The testing backlog has led other local governments to open their own crime labs, including Charlotte, Raleigh and Iredell County.


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