Thursday, August 09, 2012

DNA testing dominates crime lab backlogs

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released the results of a 2009 national survey of publicly funded crime labs. Their topline findings were:
  • During 2009, the 411 federal, state, county and municipal labs operating that year received over 4 million requests for a wide range of forensic services.
  • At the end of 2009, the nation’s publicly funded crime labs had an estimated backlog of 1.2 million requests for forensic services, which was relatively unchanged from the backlog at yearend 2008.
  • Between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of publicly funded crime labs that were accredited by a professional forensic science organization increased from 71% to 83%.
  • Publicly funded crime labs employed an estimated 13,100 full-time personnel in 2009—an increase from about 11,000 in 2002.
  • The estimated budget for all publicly funded crime labs in 2009 was about $1.6 billion compared to the $1.0 billion budget for labs in 2002.
Of the 1,153,700 backlogged requests at the end of 2009, "forensic biology" (mostly DNA) was the main driver, with 494,400 offender/arrestee samples waiting to be processed, and 399,300 backlogged requests relating to investigating criminal cases. That's 77.5% of crime lab backlogs attributed to "forensic biology."  Controlled substance testing registered the third largest portion of the backlog, with 121,800 pending requests.

MORE: See coverage from the Sacramento Bee.


Anonymous said...

Exactly. And, as Judge Keasler of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently stated, prosecutors should be "testing everything!"

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:05, to be clear, Keasler said that about death-penalty cases, which are a small subset and where the outcome is irrevocable. He didn't say "test everything" in every case.

Projecting into the future, the biggest volume of DNA cases on the horizon are with "touch DNA" on property crimes. There, priorities definitely must be set, but probably not at the expense of testing in capital cases where the identity of the killer is in question.