Washington State Patrol lab relies on DNA to solve crimes

March 4, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 6 a.m. March 4, 2011

The state crime lab used DNA testing to complete a record-setting 379 hits last year.

Teams at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab use a national database, Combined DNA Index System or CODIS, to offer leads to investigators.

Since the program debuted more than a decade ago, the crime-fighting tool has provided more than 1,500 leads.

“This is about arresting and convicting the guilty, and clearing the innocent,” state patrol Chief John Batiste said. “DNA is the most reliable way we’ve ever had for telling if someone was present at a crime scene.”

Located in Seattle, the laboratory receives about 1,400 samples from convicted offenders each month.

The resulting database contains more than 194,000 DNA profiles from Washington criminals convicted of a felony, or certain gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors.

Under state law, registered sex and kidnapping offenders must also submit a DNA sample.

The lab compares samples from convicted criminals against DNA evidence collected at more than 3,500 crime scenes statewide. Investigators routinely search the samples in the state database against the CODIS database.

In the hits from last year, more than half linked to burglary cases, and another 39 percent stemmed from murders, rapes, robberies and assaults.

The analysis shows 79 percent of the DNA hits match offenders convicted for less-violent crimes, such as burglary and drug possession.

The hits generated last year represent a 47 percent increase from the 257 hits in 2009.

The crime lab attributed the increase to several factors, including a pilot project for testing evidence from property crimes, and technology upgrades.

“The CODIS program is a forensic time machine” Larry Hebert, forensic laboratory services bureau director, said in a release. “Our scientists use this powerful technology to link suspects to unsolved crimes, some of which were committed over 40 years ago.  CODIS is also used to link apparent unrelated cases to each other providing investigators with valuable information.”

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