Oregon’s crime lab has registered its 1,000th DNA “hit” matching an unsolved crime to a profile in the state database, The Oregonian reports. Only eight other states have reached that milestone. Fittingly, say Oregon State Police officials, the analysis kept police from arresting an innocent man, pointing detectives to a felon they hadn’t considered. Since Oregon’s DNA database began in 1992, forensic scientists say they have been just as amazed with its power to clear suspects as convict them. One official estimated that 20 percent of the lab’s hits have absolved suspects in everything from homicides to gas station robberies. The problem is getting the DNA results back to investigators before they waste months looking into the wrong person.
State police say budget cuts have created massive backlogs of blood, semen, saliva, and other samples. Despite a swell of private donations and fundraising “DNA dinners,” more than 20,000 cards containing the genetic fingerprints of convicted felons remain stacked up, waiting to be entered into the system.