HPD Crime Lab Receives Million Dollar Grant to Address DNA Backlog

October 1 , 2009 - The Houston Police Department’s Crime Lab Division received a Department of Justice grant to implement improvements in its DNA Section. The $1.3 million grant will provide funding to plan and implement improvements designed to reduce turnaround times to 30 days for DNA tests and decrease the backlog to a target of 100 cases.

The DNA Section has undergone two assessments on increasing efficiency with a most recent one by the Forensic Science Services. The Crime Lab currently processes evidence manually and cases are assigned to a specific analyst. In an effort to speed up the process and address a growing backlog (1, 048 cases) of DNA cases along with an increased demand of DNA testing, several innovative procedures will be implemented. The strategy is to outsource a limited number of pre-screened cases to DNA outsource labs, employ a project manager to fast-track the automation project, purchase robots and existing protocols, validate equipment with assistance from experienced labs, integrate robots with Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and train staff on automation.

“DNA testing is a powerful tool used in the criminal justice system that helps identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent. Like many labs throughout the nation, the HPD Crime Lab’s demand for DNA testing exceeds its capacity resulting in a backlog,” said Crime Lab Director Irma Rios. “This $1.3 million grant awarded by the Department of Justice gives us a great opportunity to add sophisticated automation and process backlogs in an efficient and effective manner while maintaining high standards,” added Rios.

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200 .

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