U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Press Announcement At National Forensic Science Technology Center
Tampa, FL
September 19, 2005

Thank you, Paul. It's great to be here.

Earlier today, I took a tour of the center, and I'd like to thank my guides. You have an impressive facility here, and it was a pleasure to see first-hand how it's being used.

Of course, a center such as this is only as good as its staff, and the staff here are second to none. They're not only extremely knowledgeable and current in the latest science, but committed and hard-working as well. I want to thank them for their dedication, and for indulging this non-scientist in her wide-eyed curiosity.

I want to express my appreciation to U.S. Attorney Perez for joining me today, and for his excellent work on behalf of the people of the Central District of Florida. As a federal prosecutor, he understands as well as anyone the value of forensic science to the administration and the attainment of justice. I know he fully appreciates the good things that go on here, and I'm glad he could be with us.

And my tremendous thanks to the center's Executive Director, Kevin Lothridge. Kevin's an alum of our agency's National Institute Justice, and he made some valuable contributions to forensic research and technology while he was with us. I appreciate the fine work he does here.

And speaking of NIJ, I'd like to acknowledge my colleague, John Morgan. John is NIJ's Acting Director, as well as its Assistant Director for Science and Technology, and he's done a great job overseeing our efforts in the field of forensics, particularly in relation to President Bush's DNA Initiative. John will join me in a few moments to answer your questions.

I'm pleased today to announce the latest installment of funding under the President's initiative, "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology." The initiative is a five-year, $1 billion dollar effort headed by NIJ to improve the application of DNA technology to solving crimes.

I'm also happy to announce a new round of funding under the Paul Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Grants Program. The Coverdell program complements the President's initiative by supporting forensic science services, and state and local lab improvements.

The funding we're announcing today totals more than $96 million. Those funds will go toward eliminating DNA casework backlogs, expanding the capacity of crime labs, training justice system personnel, improving research and development, testing convicted offenders, enhancing forensic services, and identifying missing persons.

We are awarding almost $8.9 million to agencies and institutions right here in Florida. Crime labs in both state and local law enforcement departments will receive funding to help reduce DNA backlogs and enhance their capacity to use DNA technology. The National Forensic Science Technology Center will receive almost $3.8 million to help advance the use of DNA evidence.

We also are awarding $2 million under a new program designed to test the effectiveness of collecting DNA evidence in high-volume property crimes such as burglary.

We all know that DNA has been a powerful tool in solving violent crimes such as murder and rape. We're now seeing evidence that its utility extends to non-violent crimes as well. For example, officials in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties collected DNA evidence from crimes ranging from car theft and burglary to robbery and other violent crimes. When the profiles were loaded into state and national DNA databases, matches to known criminals were made in 40-50% of cases.

The Palm Beach/Miami-Dade program was one of two in the nation supported by NIJ to measure the benefits of DNA analysis in cases of property crime.

Our Bureau of Justice Statistics has shown that property crime offenders have extremely high rates of recidivism and that the level of violence can escalate. Analyzing DNA in property crime cases can help to solve other crimes and may be able to prevent future crimes from occurring.

This new DNA Expansion Demonstration Program will support pilot projects in five jurisdictions - Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Topeka, Kansas, and Orange County, California. The effectiveness of their efforts will be evaluated after 18 months. We look forward to hearing the results.

Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath have presented us with a sobering example of how forensic science and DNA can be of service in the wake of tragedy. In particular, we are reminded of the difficulties authorities face in finding the missing. We still don't know the extent of the casualties from the storm and of the floods it produced, but we expect that the task of identifying bodies will be a very big one.

Early this month, we awarded almost four-and-a-half million dollars under the DNA initiative to the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to help with local forensic efforts. We also awarded $1.5 million to the University of North Texas Health Center, the only private entity that can upload DNA profiles into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System. UNT will use funds to help identify the missing and the dead from Katrina.

The recovery effort following Katrina underscores the urgent need to improve on advances in forensic science. The President's DNA Initiative is our effort to take advantage of DNA technology, and to enlist its full potential in the search for justice and healing.

Through the President's DNA initiative, victims and their families will have the chance to see justice done. Our investment in DNA technology tools provides law enforcement the ability to solve crimes that might have been impossible to solve in the past.

Once again, I want to thank our friends at the National Forensic Science Technology Center for serving as our host and for their leadership. And I thank those of you from the fields of science and law enforcement for your commitment to using DNA to solve crime and to find answers for the families of the missing.

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