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Improving Evidence Screening Efficiency Using a Biological Processing Laboratory

NCJ Number
Cecelia A. Crouse, Ph.D.
Date Published
November 2012
197 pages
This report documents the creation, procedures, and benefits of Palm Beach County's (Florida) establishment of a Biological Processing Laboratory (BPL) that screens crime-scene evidence for biological materials prior to submitting it to the Forensic Biological Unit (FBU) for DNA analysis.
Over the past 13 years, the FBU has been annually awarded National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grant funding intended to increase the efficiency of the DNA analytical process, reduce DNA backlog, and improve turnaround time. Under this funding, the FBU decreased the base backlog from 1,700 in 2008 to 200 in 2009 by validating automation for high sample throughput, implementing case submission policies, and hiring additional staff; however, the turnaround time still lagged behind expectations. The Palm Beach County Law Enforcement Planning Council appointed a working group to investigate options for further decreasing the DNA backlog and turnaround times. The working group determined that the screening of crime-scene evidence for biological material is a fundamental factor in the increasing caseload backlog. This led to the recommendation that evidentiary samples be prescreened prior to being submitted to the FBU for DNA analysis. The BPL was established in existing space within the Boca Raton Police Services Department (BRPSD). Its assigned task is to pre-screen crime-scene evidence for southern Palm Beach County law enforcement agencies prior to submission to the FBU for DNA analysis. The BPL collects and processes evidence for the confirmation of blood and semen, as well as hair in order to determine whether DNA analysis should be attempted. It also swabs items for touch DNA evidence. Only informative evidence is submitted to the FBU for DNA analysis. An evaluation of this new procedure has found a 50-percent decrease in the time it takes to accept, process, and report casework results. 2 tables, 4 figures, 7 references, and a description of efforts to disseminate findings to other law enforcement agencies