The Los Angeles Police Department would need $9.3 million to clear up a backlog of untested DNA evidence that could hold the key to solving hundreds of sexual assaults and other violent crimes, but state and local money is falling far short of covering the cost, the Los Angeles Times reports. A state audit released yesterday detailed the shortfall that has existed between state aid and local law enforcement needs. Under Proposition 69, approved by voters in 2004, a special court fee was established to pay for DNA collection and analysis. Initially, most of the money went to the state crime lab, which was able to slash its backlog of untested evidence.
The LAPD has received only $530,000 from the court fee over the last three years for DNA collection from felons, and nothing to analyze crime scene evidence. The department expects to receive $1 million in state money next year for its crime lab, but officials say that will barely begin to close the gap. Evidence from 6,700 LAPD sexual assault cases is stored in envelopes and cartons inside cold storage lockers and trailers at a city warehouse facility. Each packet is a potential genetic road map to a rapist or killer, whose capture and conviction could bring some peace of mind to survivors and their families. The problem is not unique to Los Angeles. DNA testing facilities nationwide have been swamped by demands, not only from regular investigators but also from “cold hit” squads seeking breaks in long-dormant cases and from convicts with innocence claims. The U.S. Justice Department says more than 500,000 unsolved crimes, including 169,000 rapes, have DNA evidence is untested.