SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Sometimes people may hear police or court attorneys say “the evidence is overwhelming.” That couldn’t be truer for the endless items of crime found in the Salt Lake City Police Department evidence warehouse.
Police recently let ABC4’s Brian Carlson walk around, and he found a few things you’d never expect to see, in this edition of “Behind the Badge.”
When the police are holding onto thousands upon thousands of evidence, they’ve collected for roughly 60 years, you expect to find a few interesting things in there, that is – if you can find them.
Inside the Salt Lake City Police Department evidence warehouse, officers are accumulating a large crime collection. Evidence Technician Kimberlee Crispin is the police custodian who, for nearly 17 years, has overseen the rows and rows of endless boxes and bags filled with items saved from decades of crime.
“Over 200 thousand items of evidence are in our warehouse right now,” said Kimberlee Crispin, SLCPD Evidence Technician.
Some evidence here goes back as far as the 1960s, taken from murders, thefts, sexual crimes, drug busts and more. Currently housed inside are roughly 250 bikes, 300 cases involving cash, scores of clothes, tools, items to do drugs, and in the last year alone 570 guns.
It feels like a lot of evidence that has built up over the years. Crispin says it is overwhelming.
Walking through the warehouse, you can find any number of random things such as a Huggies box full of sex magazines, someone’s kevlar vest and a big fish made out of Louisiana license plates. If you can think of it, they’ve probably seen it come through the warehouse.
“What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever seen?” Carlson asked.
“The oddest thing I’ve ever seen was a handful of sunflower seeds collected from the scene of a burglary… they were uneaten sunflower seeds left on the table by the suspect… I really don’t understand the evidentiary property of a handful of sunflower seeds,” laughed Crispin.
“Like, why someone would hold onto those?” Carlson asked.
“Don’t know,” said Crispin.
For what Crispin does know of what’s inside these aisles, most of it actually remains a mystery.
“We cannot just go into a report and read what’s going on with the case, so when we receive items most of it’s packaged in a way that we cannot see what the items are,” she said.
Officers first bring evidence into the packaging room, and it’s then bagged up and filed away until its court case is closed, but for items too big to fit in packaging, you can guess the crime.
Placed against a wall in the warehouse is a big machine that looks like it could belong in an arcade. Its surface has buttons enough for three people and a giant monitor display. Crispin said the one interesting part of the job is that sometimes they see the items but don’t have the story behind them.
“The best I can give you on that is basement gambling is not allowed,” said Crispin.
“So, this is a gambling machine?” Carlson asked.
“It’s a gambling machine. We have a few others in other places,” Crispin replied.
The warehouse’s the most famous piece of evidence was seen by the entire world in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
A piece of the Olympic Arch is tucked beneath shelving units, hidden away as a historic gem in the warehouse.
“When the Olympic arch was taken down from the University of Utah football stadium it was stored at the city impound lot… apparently at some point some people had tried to break into the lot and were attempting to steal beams from the arch. That was one of the items that was recovered,” said Crispin.
The possibilities of what’s contained here could be endless. Police said according to policy, anything they recover at a crime has to go into evidence.
“It could be a single dime, somebody says ‘this dime isn’t mine, I didn’t leave any change in my car,’ we have to book it into evidence,” said Det. Michael Ruff, SLCPD Public Information Officer.
From filing cabinets to boxes stacked nearly 20 feet high, since Salt Lake police moved into this space in 2015, they now have room to store whatever officers find at the scene. The only thing that surprises Crispin about what’s here is how much is here.
“The volume, I think the volume more than anything else,” said Crispin.
And these aisles are where all of it lives until police consider each case closed.
Once a case gets closed the evidence either gets returned to the owner, tossed out, or donated. If you have something that’s part of a case, they recommend your best chance at getting it back is knowing the serial number of the thing you want returned.
You have no idea how many things like bikes, tools, or electronics go unclaimed because the owner doesn’t have a serial number.