Two years after California set out to create a vast DNA database to unravel thousands of unsolved crimes, the program is severely hampered by a lack of resources, the Los Angeles Times reports. The state crime lab has a backlog of more than a quarter-million DNA samples it is unable to process because of a funding shortfall and a lack of staff. At its current rate, the lab would need 2 1/2 years to clear the backlog – if it received no more samples. But it is taking in about 20,000 samples a month.
Officials, police officers and the director of a rape treatment center say the backlog means that crimes are going unsolved and that criminals who could be arrested may still be walking the streets. The problems stem from overly optimistic funding projections when voters in 2004 passed Proposition 69, designed to make the state a leader in the use of DNA technology as a crime-solving tool. Proposition 69 requires all convicted felons, certain misdemeanor offenders, and those arrested for rape or murder to give DNA samples. The samples are subjected to genetic testing, and the results are uploaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System. DNA evidence from crime scenes can be run against the database for matches that will help identify suspects. More than 285,000 samples have been added to the database, and the program has yielded 2,670 “hits” in some long-languishing cases. Funding problems have resulted in a backlog of more than 287,000 unprocessed DNA samples.