State and federal lawmakers are trying to reduce backlogs in unanalyzed DNA evidence even as more common forms of forensic data are being neglected, crime lab directors tell Stateline.org. Analysis of DNA evidence accounts for only about 5 percent of most crime labs' work, said Earl Wells, director of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD) and head of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division's forensic services unit. Lab scientists spend much more time analyzing other forensic evidence such as controlled substances and fingerprints, he said.
State and federal legislators have focused their attention on the elimination of DNA backlogs. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in February unveiled a plan to slash his state's DNA backlog, while in Wisconsin the same problem has become an issue in the state's race for attorney general. President Bush also has made eliminating DNA backlogs a high priority as part of a five-year, $1 billion DNA Initiative. At the same time, non-DNA evidence sits unexamined in most of the nation's estimated 350 publicly funded crime labs, Wells said – slowing down all forensic analysis. More than 200 of those labs are state or regional facilities. “If you stress [DNA] above all else, everything else suffers,” he said.