New Smyrna Beach Police Dept. audit finds more problems with evidence

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NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - Some dangerous criminals could be put back on the streets of Volusia County because of how evidence was handled or mishandled.

A year ago, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found problems with the evidence locker at the New Smyrna Beach Police Department.

The investigation found $1,200 was missing from an evidence locker.

Channel 9 discovered two audits weren’t done properly and more evidence was determined to be missing, including car parts and surveillance video.

The audit also found that numerous people had access to evidence and some of it wasn’t locked up properly, or was kept near prisoners.

New Smyrna Beach police are now working on changing the way they handle evidence.

“That’s a concern for me. That is unacceptable. We strive for 100 percent accuracy,” said Chief George Markert with the New Smyrna Beach Police Department.

Markert, the new police chief, found checks and balances were not done correctly.

“It made sense for me to do my own audit and get a baseline of where we are at,” he said.

That audit showed six more items were missing from the evidence room and some evidence, including guns, was labeled as destroyed when it wasn't.

The audit found employees were not being fully trained or equipment used to file evidence was not in optimal operating condition.

WFTV’s legal analyst, Bill Sheaffer, said criminal defense attorneys may try to use discrepancies to their advantage.

“What this report is going to do is cause criminal defense attorneys to scrutinize the cases they have more closely,” he said.

The police chief said the problems with the evidence locker have been corrected and so far, no recent cases have been thrown out because of concerns over evidence.