Within the UT Police at Houston headquarters is a unit responsible for the receipt, chain of custody, secure storage and final disposition of evidence collected by police officers in the field. Hundreds of items – ranging from confiscated bicycles to firearms – are added to the database annually.
The Property and Evidence unit at UT Police is tasked with logging and filing items using a method that makes it easy to retrieve evidence when needed. Their knowledge and organization is crucial to successful outcomes of UT Police investigations.
“Our goal is to maintain evidence integrity from collection to submission to storage, all the way until we get the court order that allows us to destroy the items,” said UT Police Property and Evidence manager Abel Santillan.
To keep up with the industry’s best practices, Santillan recently attended a training conducted by the International Association for Property and Evidence (IAPE). The two-day training was taught by current and former law enforcement officials with extensive real-world experience in management of property and evidence. Training addressed best business practices and professional standards for topics such as industry standards on handling sexual-assault evidence, storing narcotics, working with hazmat materials and knowing when to purge.
Santillan and Evidence Coordinator Ana Torres, were also certified and recertified (respectively) by IAPE as Property and Evidence Specialists.
In addition to managing the evidence room, the team also keeps officers up-to-date on proper evidence handling techniques.
The Property and Evidence unit also oversees UTHealth and MD Anderson Lost and Found.
In some cases, Torres said the return of seemingly insignificant items have resulted in tears from the owner upon its return.
“I’ll never forget a mother who had a daughter in brain cancer remission at MD Anderson,” recalled Torres. “We had a ring that wasn’t very fancy. It turned out that the ring was a family heirloom that had been passed through many generations. It’s a really great feeling when we’re able to reconnect someone with something they’ve lost.”
The public can view all Lost and Found items on the UT Police Found Property webpage. Submitted items are held for 90 days.