The mission of the ISP forensic lab is to provide accurate, complete and timely services to Illinois citizens, and the state has now reduced the DNA case backlogs to the lowest levels in more than five years.
Forensic science is one of the most significant and vital elements of the criminal investigative process. The state of Illinois was struggling with a hefty backlog of DNA cases, but thanks to a number of initiatives including outsourcing, there have been dramatic backlog reductions.
"It allows us to attack our backlog in two ways, increase the number we work in house, and we also have someone else working on our cases," says crime lab director Cecelia Doyle.
The ISP was able to reduce the backlog of cases awaiting DNA analysis to 158 by December of 2004. That's down from more than 1,100 in January of last year, and the offender sample backlog was reduced from more than 58,000 samples awaiting analysis to just over 10,000.
"The faster we can get through cases, the more information we can provide to help with the prosecution of a case or tell police that they have to look elsewhere for a suspect," says Doyle.
The tremendous increase in offender sample submissions is due to the 2002 "all felons legislation" that requires police to take DNA samples from every convicted felon. The samples are then placed in the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.
"Not only has the technology gotten better, but the number of criminals we can compare information to has gotten larger, so there's always going to be a greater success rate," says Doyle.
The backlog reductions were made as a result of increased state and federal funding. The result is a more efficient ISP crime lab that can provide rapid analysis and provide a faster service to the citizens of Illinois.
Doyle says by the end of fiscal year 2005, the ISP crime lab hopes to be turning cases around within 30 days. Before the crime lab started outsourcing it took an average of three to four months to get to a case.