News 01.29.09

Lab Backlogs Continue to Pile Up

Many crime labs around the United States are suffering under substantial backlogs, and the budget crises in most states aren’t making things any better. While the federal stimulus package approved by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday included $4 billion to support state and local law enforcement, it is unclear how much of that money will make its way to forensic labs.

Backlogs hinder law enforcement agencies in investigating crime and they can lead to testing errors and problems with evidence storage and preservation. Here are some of the issues facing labs today around the country:

Minneapolis officials, facing a budget shortfall, said recently

they may cut crime lab funding

.

A review of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab has revealed that

evidence in more than 800 unsolved rape and sexual assault cases has gone untested

due to a massive backlog there. Testing evidence quickly is important because it can help investigators identify a suspect – and can help avoid wrongful accusation and conviction of the innocent.

Earlier this year, the Arizona State Crime Lab

began charging local jurisdictions to conduct DNA testing

in criminal investigations, and

at least one city has begun to challenge the fees

.

The Wisconsin Attorney General

called the state’s backlog “monstrous”

and said eliminating the lag would take existing analysts 20 months.

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