Local and state law enforcement agencies have made uneven progress in cutting a nationwide backlog of cases awaiting DNA analysis over the past four years, says the New York Times, citing reports filed by more than 100 agencies with the National Institute of Justice The patchy results came despite stepped-up efforts by the federal government, including nearly $500 million in grants since 2004. About a quarter of the 105 agencies that received federal money to reduce their DNA backlogs beginning in 2004 were granted less money this year because they had failed to meet spending goals
Victims' rights groups and some law enforcement officials say the untested evidence, much of it stemming from sexual assault crimes, leaves open the possibility that thousands of criminal offenders have gone unpunished or are free and committing new crimes. The problem seems most severe in Los Angeles, where the Police Department has the largest known backlog, about 7,000 cases, including many with rape kits from sexual assaults. Two weeks ago, President Bush signed a bill that includes an additional $1.6 billion over six years intended to speed DNA analyses by hiring temporary crime lab workers, providing overtime pay and renovating crime labs. Many crime labs are disqualified from receiving more money because they have failed to spend previous financing in a timely manner. A report prepared for Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) found that the Police Department had spent less than half of the $4.4 million in federal money it received from 2004 to 2008.