Police to use grant to upgrade DNA lab
Baltimore County police will use a $245,000 federal grant to upgrade equipment in its DNA crime lab, county officials said yesterday.
Most of the money from the U.S. Department of Justice grant will pay for newer models of two machines that create DNA profiles. Police officials say the machines will allow them to more quickly analyze DNA samples recovered from crime scenes and seek potential matches in a federal database.
The grant was among a series announced by county officials this week.
Also yesterday, police officials said an $88,700 state award will pay for improvements to a regional database that tracks pawnshop sales. The grant, from the governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, will go toward computers that pawnshop owners will use to enter information on items directly into the database. Police will use the information to track stolen goods.
And earlier this week, the county Fire Department said a $1.7 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security will pay for the installation of laptop computers in 46 vehicles used by emergency medical responders. The computers will allow crews to record patient-care information and receive dispatches.
At the Police Department's headquarters in Towson yesterday, County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said the Department of Justice grant will help investigators more quickly get through a backlog of 68 DNA samples.
The two current DNA analyzers used by the crime lab can create a profile for one DNA sample at a time, a task that takes a half-hour. The newer models will be able to work with four samples at a time, said Lynnda Watson, who supervises the Police Department's biology unit.
Watson said that quicker analysis of samples will lead to arrests being made more quickly after crimes occur, and prevent further crimes.
"If we can get them while they're doing minor crimes, hopefully we can get them off the street before they can commit the major crimes," Watson said.
Man charged in gunfire exchange
A 20-year-old man accused of shooting at a Baltimore County police officer early Monday in the Lutherville area has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, police said yesterday.
Joshua Whitney Bullock, who has no fixed address, was arrested about 7 p.m. Monday at a house in a neighborhood near York Road, just outside the Beltway, said Cpl. Michael Hill, a county police spokesman. Police learned that Bullock had been staying at the house, in the first block of Cavan Drive, and kept surveillance throughout the day, Hill said. When they saw him enter the house last night, they arrested him, Hill said.
Bullock was denied bail by a District Court commissioner yesterday, Hill said.
Police say an officer responding to a report of a car break-in approached two men walking along Hedgewood Road about 4:45 a.m. Monday. One of them fired a handgun at the officer, missing him. The officer fired back at least once, but the gunman fled, police said.
Charges against a second suspect are pending, Hill said.
Annual Christmas tree-lighting
Baltimore County will hold its annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the new park at Allegheny Avenue and the traffic circle in central Towson. The tree will be lit at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Participating shops and restaurants in the area will offer specials, holiday sales and discounts during the evening. Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. will preside.
The event will include free hot chocolate and cookies, and the Harbor City Chorus will perform holiday music. The Tiger Marching Band from Towson University will usher Santa and Mrs. Claus, atop a fire engine, down Allegheny Avenue to Ridgely and Ferrens Market Place, where children may visit Santa.
The Baltimore County Department of Social Services will collect new, unwrapped toys or gifts at the event as part of its annual holiday toy drive.
Allegheny Avenue will be closed to traffic from Washington Avenue to the traffic circle from 3:30 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m.
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