A shortage of fingerprint experts at the Los Angeles Police Department has caused a large backlog of unanalyzed fingerprints, resulting in long delays to thousands of active criminal investigations, reports the Los Angeles Times. The beleaguered Latent Print Unit has failed to analyze fingerprints from about 2,200 burglaries, auto thefts, and other property-related crimes. Detectives wait on average between two and three months to get print results back from the lab. In some cases, the delay can last more than a year and, in older cases in which the detectives have not pressed for analysis, prints are ignored altogether because the unit cannot keep up with the constant inflow of cases.
Officials have decided on a rationing plan that they hope will bring the workload in line with the unit’s capabilities. Under the plan, each of the 21 police stations and specialized divisions will be allotted only 10 cases each month in which fingerprints will be analyzed promptly, Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said. All other cases will be placed on a waiting list. In addition, a handful of officers will be trained to collect prints at crime scenes in order to allow the print unit to spend more time in the lab analyzing prints.