Victoria Lancaster is the one who helps officers collect evidence to solve crimes.
Go big or go home.
Those are five words Crime Scene Technician Victoria Lancaster lives by. She says them to the Ormond Beach police officers all the time, often referring to the work the Department puts in to solve crimes and keep the city safe. But, she also applies it to her daily life.
“You got one life to live, so live it to your fullest," Lancaster said.
Lancaster has been with OBPD for the last six years, but her career in crime scene investigations and evidence started out in Marion County 10 years ago. Solving cases is a team effort, she said, but her role can "make or break" a case. It's up to her to collect all items that could be valuable evidence, and either process them at the scene or bring them back and examine them in the lab.
It's a hefty responsibility, as that evidence can be later presented in a courtroom to determine someone's innocence or guilt. With each new case, Lancaster tries to learn something new and improve.
She didn't always want to work in this field. Lancaster — who is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania — actually wanted to be a pediatrician at first.
Life led her to discover her love of working in criminal justice, though she didn't end up in her dream job right away. She started out as a corrections assistant at the Marion County Jail and was later moved to classifications, where she did a lot of paperwork.
Then, when a position in crime scene investigations opened, she went in for the kill.
"Victoria Lancaster’s work as evidence crime scene tech is serious, invaluable and important for solving crimes 'behind the scenes' by using her advanced skill set in obtaining latent prints and other critical evidence that cannot be collected on the scene. But as serious as her job is Victoria has a magical personality that everyone loves. Besides her work as crime scene tech she also is involved with our Police Explorer Program and Science on Patrol training young minds and sharing her love and excitement of the 'behind the scenes' part of her job. She is a very valuable part of our family here at Ormond Beach Police Department."
Evelyn Rebostini, OBPD victim advocate and last year's Standing O nominee
Over the years, it's the cases with children that stick in her mind. A particularly hard one happened in Marion County — five children died in a fire. That was her first case involving a child death investigation. One of the children was her daughter's age at the time.
“I don’t know how to explain it," Lancaster said. "It’s just one of those things where you learn to disassociate yourself from things.”
Lancaster thinks of the victims all the time. She hasn't taken the stand in a courtroom very often while with OBPD, but she did during the trial of Mark Fugler, who was later released on bail after being convicted of child sex abuse. Witnessing him go back to jail fixed what she described was a "miscarriage of justice."
“Which is amazing — you don’t usually get to see that happen," she said.
OBPD's active outreach programs also help keep her positive. She loves that the Department hosts programs like Science on Patrol, the Five-0 club and Coffee with a Cop. Lancaster is also an advisor with the Explorer's program.
Each Monday night, she spends three hours with the Explorers.
“Whether it’s teaching them about crime scenes or just helping," Lancaster said. "It’s good for me because I learn more about the police end of it that I didn’t know.”