Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $612,156)
The Erie County Forensic Laboratory performs forensic DNA analysis for the Local, State and Federal law enforcement agencies of Erie County, NY. Forensic DNA services are also provided for Niagara County, Orleans County, and occasionally for law enforcement agencies from 3 neighboring counties. The lab has 12 full-time Forensic Biologists and two DNA analysts assigned from Niagara County Crime Laboratory. Additionally, the Quality Assurance Coordinator performs DNA/Biology analysis. With the success of CODIS and heightened focus on violent crimes, DNA requests have been steady beyond the lab’s capacity to analyze cases. The analysis of sexual assault kits is mandated by New York State. Meanwhile, advances in DNA technology have improved the capability of obtaining DNA profiles with multiple contributors, but the complexity of the mixtures has increased the analysis and technical review time. Together, these influences have resulted in a significant backlog and a need to reduce the number of samples awaiting DNA analysis.
The goals of this project include:
Increase the capacity of the DNA section
Reduce the number of forensic DNA samples awaiting analysis
Prevent an increase to the existing backlog
To achieve the project goals, the lab will use this award to fund overtime for DNA analysis on backlogged cases, validation of the robotic extraction system which will improve efficiency and analytical turnaround time, and continue funding 3 Forensic Biologist positions previously funded by NIJ grant programs. Funding will also be used for overtime to manage the grant programmatic requirements, to purchase equipment necessary to increase capacity and efficiency, and to purchase the necessary DNA supplies and maintenance contracts for DNA related equipment.
It is anticipated that the overtime funded by this program to analyze DNA casework will result in a decrease in the turnaround time and a decrease in the number DNA samples awaiting analysis. 185 additional cases are expected to be completed using grant funded overtime. The long-term goal is to analyze the current backlogged cases and to then provide a 30 day turn-around time for new cases. Additionally, the salaries and fringe funded by this program to retain 3 Forensic Biologists will increase the capacity and throughput of DNA samples by completing an additional 360 Biology/DNA assignments.