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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces End to Backlog that Slowed DNA Analysis at Justice Department Labs

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the California Department of Justice has cleared a backlog that slowed the analysis of DNA crime scene evidence and will now be able to perform routine analysis within 30 days, down from an average of 90 to 120 days.

“DNA testing is a powerful law enforcement resource – a smart on crime tool that we’re using in cutting edge ways in California,” Attorney General Harris said. “Public safety is too important not to embrace innovation and adopt technology where needed. Crime scene evidence is too important to sit unanalyzed for months, while the victims await justice.”

Attorney General Harris made DNA testing a priority in 2011, because of the direct link between timely investigations and successful prosecutions. Along with committing resources and encouraging Department of Justice labs to improve their procedures, the Attorney General introduced new technology that dramatically increased the speed with which cases are analyzed. Using robotics, an extraction method in sexual assault evidence analysis that once took two days now takes just two hours.

As a result of these efficiencies, state forensic analysts - for the first time ever - eliminated the backlog of untested evidence. In 2011, the Department’s Bureau of Forensic Services analyzed 5,400 evidence samples – an increase of 11 percent from 2010 (4,800) and 24 percent from 2009 (4,100).

As part of the DNA analysis, evidence samples are run through the CAL-DNA Data Bank. A “hit” occurs when DNA evidence from an unsolved crime sample matches a DNA profile from evidence in another case or the DNA profile of an offender or arrestee in the data bank.

The Bureau of Forensic Services operates 13 regional laboratories, seven of which perform DNA testing of biological evidence to assist local agencies in solving sexual assault cases and other crimes of violence. The seven DNA labs are located in Ripon (near Modesto), Fresno, Redding, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Richmond. The Bureau serves 47 of California’s 58 counties.

The CAL-DNA Data Bank contains the DNA profiles of 1.8 million offenders and arrestees in California, as well as crime scene evidence. It is the largest working DNA data bank in the United States and the fourth largest in the world.

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