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Scottsdale City Council accepts DOJ funds to address police DNA backlog

photo of where the DNA backlog exists
A view of Scottsdale Police HQ along Indian School Road whereas the Scottsdale crime lab is just a short jaunt eastbound from headquarters. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Scottsdale police continue to grapple with DNA backlog for hundreds of cases
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Scottsdale City Council is accepting a Department of Justice grant program to the tune of $250,000 to provide DNA analysis with a financial shot in the arm to help shoulder the costs of specialized deduction of biological evidence found at local crime scenes.

Scottsdale City Council, through its consent agenda Tuesday, Oct. 10, voted unanimously to accept the federal funds to help address what appears to be a growing backlog of DNA evidence, numbers show.

“The Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Unit is charged with the screening of collected physical evidence as well as the DNA analysis of biological evidence,” said Scottsdale Chief of Police Jeff Walther in his report to City Council.

“DNA evidence is routinely collected and analyzed in crimes such as sexual assault, homicide, and armed robbery. These crimes are often referred to as crimes against persons. Although the laboratory prioritizes analyzing crimes against person cases, officers and detectives also collect DNA evidence from property crimes and submit the evidence to the crime lab for analysis.”

Chief Walther, in his report, provides that the number of cases submitted for DNA dissection continues to grow.

“While the number of DNA cases submitted to the lab continues to increase, so does the number of backlogged DNA cases,” he said. “A DNA case is considered ‘backlogged’ if analysis does not begin within 30 days.”

Chief Walther called the number of backlogged cases ‘exceptionally high’ in calendar year 2022. A breakdown of backlogged cases numbers shows hundreds of cases still waiting DNA evidence:

At the end of calendar year 2020 there were 176 cases awaiting DNA results.
At the end of calendar year 2021 there were 264 cases awaiting DNA results.
At the end of calendar year 2022 there were 336 cases awaiting DNA results.

What the DOJ grant will allow Scottsdale Police to do is hire scientists, police officials say.

“DNA Capacity Enhancement Backlog Reduction formula grant to continue funding two DNA scientists that focus on the backlogged cases,” Chief Walther said. The FY 2023 grant funds will also be used to purchase the necessary licenses and equipment to allow the scientists to process the cases.”

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