Los Angeles police officials say the number of cases with unanalyzed fingerprint evidence has more than doubled in the last two years, hampering efforts to solve thousands of burglaries, thefts and other property crimes, the Los Angeles Times reports. The backlog has worsened despite a police campaign to process fingerprints more effectively, including having officers rather than analysts collect fingerprints at some crime scenes. In 2012, the backlog was about 2,200 cases. Today, there are 5,455. Deputy Police Chief Kirk Albanese told the civilian-led Police Commission the delay was so severe that some fingerprints were now useless because the three-year deadline for prosecuting offenders had passed. “We can’t get to every property crime. We just can’t,” Albanese told the Times. “As much as that frustrates us, much like an emergency room, we have prioritized and we are taking what is the greatest risk to public safety first.”
“There are cases that we don’t get to that would generate a suspect identification,” Albanese said. “For me to say otherwise would be disingenuous.” Chief Charlie Beck described the backlog as “very problematic” and attributed the delays to a staffing shortage. He said city officials were “very aware” of the department’s request to hire more analysts: “We’re working toward that.” After the 2,200-case backlog was identified in 2012, the police department took steps to reduce the workload on the fingerprint unit. Officers were trained to collect prints at some crime scenes, allowing analysts more time in the lab to work other cases. When funding occasionally opened up, some was directed to the unit.