by: Holly Maynard Updated:
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - This weekend, Huntersville police will move into a newer, much bigger police department that police say will help keep the community safer.
"It provides us the opportunity to basically correct all the deficiencies that we had in the other building," said Chief Phil Potter.
The department invited Eyewitness News to get a first look at the new space before officers move in. It's 27,000 square feet versus the 8,000 square feet in the current department. It cost $5.8 million, about a third of original estimates. The department will be housed in a former medical office building.
Last year, Chief Potter showed Eyewitness News the cramped quarters at the current department. The staff there grew from 18 employees when it opened in 1997 to more than 90 employees today.
He showed Channel 9 a picture of what it can look like when suspects are held in the same hallway that the public uses. At the new department, suspects will be driven in through a secure parking lot and then into a garage. From there, they will go into a secure hallway then to an arrest processing area, another room that's secure. So, they never have contact with the general public.
Another change: the way officers process evidence.
"Our officers are doing that in the back hallway, or finding some room to do that in a primitive manner," Potter said.
He showed Eyewitness News a room that will be a "mini-crime lab" for that work. One key piece in the room: new equipment that dries blood-stained evidence. After a husband and wife were murdered inside their Huntersville home last year, police say the entire department smelled of blood for more than a week because their equipment couldn't process the evidence quickly and efficiently.
An Eyewitness News crew also saw locker rooms that can accommodate all the officers, and a huge state-of-the-art classroom, something police don't have now. The current department will close this Friday and the new one will be up and running Monday morning.