The new San Diego Sheriff’s Crime Lab, Major Crimes and Property and Evidence Unit Building is the latest addition to the County Operations Center in Kearney Mesa. A major upgrade from the current facility, located in a converted hospital, the new addition to the COC allows for the collocation of three very important entities in the Sheriff’s Department. The first is the Regional Crime Laboratory which did 15,000 examinations for over 30 law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in the county, state, and federal agencies. The lab provides specialized analysis in crime scene investigation, controlled substances, alcohol, forensic biology and DNA, trace evidence (including arson, explosives, fibers and paint), latent fingerprint development and comparison, questioned documents, and firearms and tool marks. It also houses the Major Crimes Division which is responsible for investigating the most serious crimes and the Property & Evidence Unit which was previously spread out across two buildings throughout the County. Gathering these services and resources in one location may enhance the efficiency of investigators who are assigned to cases such as homicide, sexual assault, child and elder abuse.
The character of the state-of-the-art regional crime lab reflects the greater context of the COC Campus while striking its own elegant first impression. This is accomplished by blending materials and architectural elements commonly found on the COC such as metal panels, precast concrete, insulating glass, and shading elements into a unique and modern facade.
The building’s public-facing plaza extends the front door of the adjacent Registrar of Voters building, creating a large park-like area capable of hosting community events. Visitors are intuitively guided to the main entry where they encounter the newest piece of art in the COC’s collection, a blue and gold mosaic tile sculpture entitled “Song of Night and Day”. The mobius shape of the piece, created by acclaimed artist Ann Gardner, contrasts the modern feel of the new facility and represents the unstoppable passage of time.
The main lobby, which is adjacent to a multi-purpose training/community room, combines the COC’s “signature” terrazzo flooring with maple, wood veneer paneling and other interior finishes already occurring throughout the County Operations Center. Abstract photography and a full-length display case mounted in the day-lit 2-story civic lobby features equipment and artifacts related to forensics and criminal investigation. The scale of the entry and site-specific exhibits create a sense of place that communicates the story of the critical public safety services taking place inside the highly-secured facility.
A testament to its ability to blend seamlessly into the County Operations Center, the Investigations, Crime Lab, Property and Evidence feels as if it has always been a part of the campus fabric, while also standing prominently as a renewed symbol of the County’s commitment to make San Diego the safest urban county in the nation.