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DNA testing success results in huge backlog

DNA testing

The process of DNA testing has improved dramatically over the last few years but as more tests are being requested labs cannot keep up. Law enforcement agencies have submitted so many samples that the national backlog has grown by 85% since 2011.

The Justice Department has tried to reduce the backlog of crime scene DNA samples awaiting testing over the last 15 years. But despite about $1 billion in federal spending to cut the number of untested cases, the number has grown in the past 6 years, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The problem is largely blamed on the success of DNA testing. It has identified more than 440,000 previously unknown suspects over the past 20 years, and as such, police agencies are increasingly submitting more cases. The GAO report found that, “the goal of eliminating backlogs is unachievable in the foreseeable future because of increases in demand for DNA analysis.”

Victim of its own success

Funding of up to $150 million per year was provided and Congress passed the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program in 2004 to support public crime laboratories’ work to build capacity and process DNA evidence. Police can submit blood, skin, semen or hair samples from a crime scene or a suspect to their crime lab, obtain a DNA profile from the sample and then have it compared against the FBI’s national database of around 17 million people. Prisons can also submit samples of convicts or individuals arrested to be profiled and entered into the database.

The number of samples submitted for DNA testing nationwide went from about 242,000 in 2011 to 308,000 in 2017, according to the GAO’s findings. The lead author of the report, Gretta L. Goodwin, said the rising backlog is partly attributable to the 91,000 cases that already existed in 2011, and which labs must address, in addition to the steadily rising number of new submissions. “It’s really an issue of them not being able to keep up”, said Goodwin.

Angelo DellaManna, Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, said the funding from the Smith Act has “increased our testing, improved our turnaround time and gotten more hits in the DNA database. But as law enforcement gets more educated about DNA testing, they submit more and more cases.” AlphaBiolabs can turn your DNA test results around within 3–5 days from their arrival in our laboratory. To find out about our range of DNA testing services call us now on 727-325-2902 or email info@alphabiolabsusa.com