November 24

This Day in History

Crime

Nov 24, 1932:

The FBI Crime Lab opens its doors for business

The crime lab that is now referred to as the FBI Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory officially opens in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1932. The lab, which was chosen because it had the necessary sink, operated out of a single room and had only one full-time employee, Agent Charles Appel. Agent Appel began with a borrowed microscope and a pseudo-scientific device called a helixometer. The helixometer purportedly assisted investigators with gun barrel examinations, but it was actually more for show than function. In fact, J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, provided the lab with very few resources and used the "cutting-edge lab" primarily as a public relations tool. But by 1938, the FBI lab added polygraph machines and started conducting controversial lie detection tests as part of its investigations. In its early days, the FBI Crime Lab worked on about 200 pieces of evidence a year. By the 1990s, that number multiplied to approximately 200,000. Currently, the FBI Crime Lab obtains 600 new pieces of criminal evidence everyday.

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