DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INVESTS MORE THAN $86 MILLION
WASHINGTON, DC- The Department of Justice has awarded more than $86 million over the past two years to states and territories to analyze DNA samples to help solve crimes and to increase state and local laboratory capacities to analyze DNA from crime scene evidence. The investment is detailed in a report, "The Annual Report on DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Grants," which was sent to Congress today by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, evaluation and development arm of the Department.
"DNA has the potential to be the most remarkable crime-fighting tool of the 21st century. The Department of Justice is committed to helping states eliminate backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples which have the potential to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "DNA evidence can breathe new life into long-dormant investigations. Already, DNA evidence has solved hundreds of crimes nationwide."
In fiscal year 2002, the Department of Justice made 25 awards to agencies in 24 states and Puerto Rico totaling over $28.5 million for the combined purposes of performing DNA analysis of crime scene evidence and DNA laboratory capacity building. In fiscal year 2003, the Department made 39 awards to agencies in 39 states totaling over $39.7 million for the combined purposes of performing DNA analysis of crime scene evidence and DNA laboratory capacity building. In addition, the Department of Justice also distributed $18.7 million in fiscal year 2003 for the DNA analysis of samples taken from convicted offenders. The total amount of funding to states over the past two years is $86.9 million.
Today, NIJ announced a solicitation for applicants to obtain funding to investigate and perform DNA analysis, if applicable, on "cold cases" nationwide. Recent advancements in DNA technology have improved law enforcement's ability to use DNA to solve old cases. Old analysis methods required large biological samples (often the size of a quarter). These old methods often failed to yield results when samples were degraded or contaminated. Newer DNA analysis techniques can yield results from biological evidence invisible to the naked eye, even in cases where the evidence is contaminated. Today, police departments throughout the country are reexamining unsolved rape and homicide cases using advanced methods of detecting identifiable DNA. Earlier this year, a man was convicted and sentenced in the eleven-year-old murder of a Seattle woman based on DNA evidence tested at the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory using NIJ grant funds.
In addition to these efforts, the President's DNA Initiative was launched by the Attorney General in March 2003. The initiative is a comprehensive national strategy to use DNA technology to solve crimes and protect the innocent. The initiative proposes over $1 billion in funding over a five-year period to eliminate DNA sample backlogs; to strengthen crime laboratory capacity at the state, federal and local levels; to provide post-conviction DNA testing to protect the innocent; to use DNA to identify missing persons; to train the criminal justice community; and to stimulate more research and development in all areas of forensic science, further enhancing the ability of state and local laboratories to keep up with the burgeoning DNA analysis workload.
A recent federal study reported that the total number of crime cases with possible biological evidence either still in the possession of local law enforcement, or backlogged at forensic crime laboratories, is estimated to be 542,700.
OJP provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed program. More information can be found at www.ojp.usdoj.gov.