Grant May Lead to More Efficient DNA Evidence Analysis in San Diego County

The money will be used to improve DNA testing in the county's crime lab and to increase the number of DNA samples tested each month.

San Diego County law enforcement is receiving federal funds to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of DNA evidence collection.

The U.S. Department of Justice granted more than $475,000 Thursday to the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department (SDSO).

The money will be used to improve DNA testing in the county's crime lab and to increase the number of DNA samples tested each month.

“Given continual improvements in DNA testing technology, it is now possible to obtain meaningful results from more and more sources, thereby increasing the demand on San Diego’s testing facilities,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a written release.

Funds will be spent to audit the SDSO laboratory’s DNA analysis program and upgrade the system used to store the data as well as purchase new high-capacity computers to run DNA data interpretation software, according to the DOJ news release.

San Diego City officials are hoping to reduce the backlog by 10 percent over a 30-day period. They’ll spend the money to train DNA analysts and buy additional computer software and a server to improve security for the DNA data processed by its lab.

San Diego Police Department (SDPD) uses DNA evidence in traffic investigations as well as other crimes. DNA kits are used to swab suspects and vehicles.

The kits are then logged into evidence at the police department's 6th-floor crime lab downtown. There, lab techs also have to process kits from homicide, robbery and other police units.

Samples are tested on a priority bases depending on the crime, a department spokesperson told NBC 7 in a previous interview.

Felony crimes take precedence over misdemeanors, and sometimes the line for kits to be processed can be fast or get bottlenecked.

In 2014, state auditors examined DNA rape kits collected by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and the police departments in Oakland and San Diego.

They found the three agencies collected a combined 1,900 kits from 2011 through 2013, but only about 850 -- less than half -- were analyzed by crime labs.

Last year, a victims' advocacy group released a study suggesting the San Diego Police Department had 2,800 rape kits sitting untested in its lab.

The group defined a backlog as one involving any rape kit that has not been tested, however the SDPD defines a backlog as any rape kit waiting to be tested.

SDPD Spokesperson Lt. Scott Wahl told NBC 7 in May 2015 that there are various reasons why some rape kits don’t get forwarded to their laboratory for testing. Some of those reasons include the witness does not want an investigation, detectives determined no crime was committed or there wasn’t enough evidence for detectives to legally enter the information in a DNA database. He says they keep the kits in case the victim changes his or her mind in the future.

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