In 2003, the Oakland Police Department’s crime lab processed DNA evidence from a teenage rape victim and provided investigators with a suspect’s identity. The detective assigned to the case did not follow up on the DNA “cold hit” until last week – three years after the lab sent the suspect’s profile and nearly four years after the rape occurred, reports The Argus. The suspect has been out on the streets and because it took so long to follow up on the case, police have not been able to track down the victim to resolve the case.
The case is indicative of problems facing Oakland police when it comes to following up on cold-hit DNA cases. A “cold hit” is a DNA sample collected from a crime scene tying an unknown suspect to the DNA profile of someone in the state’s database. At the Oakland Police Department, there are at least 73 unresolved rape or homicide cold-hit DNA cases. After a four-year absence, Lt. Kevin Wiley recently returned to the Special Victims Unit, which is responsible for investigating rapes and sexual assaults. Wiley said that years of mismanagement and staff turnover caused these cases to fall through the cracks. Wiley does not know how many of the 51 rape suspects identified by DNA are still on the streets. “All of the sexual assaults, especially the ones involving children, should be a priority for this department,” Wiley said. “If we come across a case like this now, we’re dropping everything for it. No ifs, ands or buts.”