29 April – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties will receive a total of $1.42 million from the Department of Justice to help solve “cold” cases and to identify missing persons through the use of DNA evidence.
The three grants are part of $14.2 million in grants that have been awarded by the Justice Department to 38 jurisdictions across the nation. The grants were announced today at the first-ever Justice Department conference on the missing and unidentified dead. The conference was called “National Strategy Meeting: Identifying the Missing.”
“For those of us in law enforcement, there is no group of people that we deal with who are more important than the victims of crime,” Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey said. “This is especially true when a member of someone’s family goes missing and is not found or identified. These awards, combined with an enhanced relationship among law enforcement, medical examiners, victim advocates, and forensic scientists, will help solve cases. By doing that, we can bring justice for the victims of crime, and peace of mind to their families.”
The grants are part of the President’s DNA initiative, “Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology,” a five-year, $1 billion effort to eliminate casework and the convicted offender backlog; improve crime lab capacity; provide DNA training; provide for post-conviction DNA testing; and conduct testing to identify missing persons. Last fall, the Department of Justice awarded $95 million in DNA grants.
The promise of DNA to help solve cold cases and identify the missing and deceased is endless. On average, there are over 100,000 missing persons listed in the National Crime Information System (NCIC), the national, computerized index of criminal justice information. More than 45,000 of those have a last known contact of over a year ago and just 50 of the missing persons in the NCIC have their DNA information listed. Of the 5,800 unidentified dead that are listed in the NCIC, only 33 have their DNA information entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a database that enables federal, state and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders.
According to a study funded by the National Institute of Justice – the research, development and evaluation arm of the Department of Justice – researchers estimate that there are 542,700 pieces of biological evidence either still in the possession of local law enforcement or backlogged at forensic crime laboratories. With the grants announced today, the Department of Justice has made sure that local jurisdictions, which often have the greatest DNA backlogs, are directly awarded DNA money.
The three local grants are going to:
* Orange County Sheriff’s Department – Unsolved Homicides Unit – $352,480 for 24 months.
* Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – $882,399 for 24 months.
* Ventura County – DNA Task Force – (District Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff’s Forensic Sciences Laboratory) – $188,264 for 12 months.
* CONTACT: Catherine Sanders
* DOJ Office of Justice Programs
* (202) 307-0703
Release No. 05-064