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State clears abundance of DNA samples awaiting analysis

POSTED January 27, 2012 9:02 p.m.

A backlog that slowed DNA testing in the state and jeopardized criminal prosecutions has been cleared, the California Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday.
A focus on increasing efficiency and introducing new techniques at the Department of Justice laboratories helped speed up testing of the thousands of samples waiting for analysis.
The Attorney General's Office now expects DNA crime scene evidence to be processed and analyzed within 30 days instead of the three months to six months it had averaged over the past few years.
"DNA testing is a powerful law enforcement resource - a smart on crime tool that we're using in cutting edge ways in California," Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a released statement. "Public safety is too important not to embrace innovation and adopt technology where needed. Crime scene evidence is too important to sit unanalyzed for months, while the victims await justice."
Harris said she made DNA testing a top priority last year because of the correlation between timely investigations and successful prosecutions.
The state's Bureau of Forensic Services operates 13 regional laboratories, seven of which are authorized to perform DNA testing of biological evidence for local law enforcement agencies. The laboratory in Ripon, which serves all of Stanislaus County among other areas, is authorized to test DNA evidence.
The backlog of samples was cleared in part by transferring some cases to laboratories that were less busy. New technology also was introduced into the laboratories that increased efficiency. For example, the Department of Justice started using a robotic extraction method in sexual assault evidence analysis that sped up the process from two days to two hours.
As part of the DNA analysis, evidence samples are run through the CAL-DNA Data Bank. A "hit" occurs when DNA evidence from an unsolved crime sample matches a DNA profile from evidence in another case or the DNA profile of an offender or arrestee in the data bank.
The CAL-DNA Data Bank contains the DNA profiles of 1.8 million offenders and arrestees in California, as well as crime scene evidence. It is the largest working DNA data bank in the United States and the fourth largest in the world. In 2011, the Department's Bureau of Forensic Services analyzed 5,400 evidence samples - an increase of 11 percent from 2010 (4,800) and 24 percent from 2009 (4,100).
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

 

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