Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $335,000)
DNA evidence has been a reliable and effective tool in solving violent crimes and prosecuting those responsible for many years. New advances have further enhanced law enforcement’s abilities to solve and prosecute crimes. From familial DNA testing to forensic genealogy, these new tools have the potential to drastically reduce crime and bring justice to those who have long lost hope. These expansions and scientific developments in DNA testing have also given life to countless cold cases. The barrier to deploying these new crime fighting tools has been a lack of resources. Our proposal creates a Forensic Evidence Bureau with the hiring of a Forensic Evidence Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute felonies that involve complex forensic issues. This Bureau would be the first of its kind in New York State outside of New York City. The Forensic Evidence Prosecutor would be responsible for activities including: Prosecution of cold case/CODIS hits, act as second chair on DNA cases, prosecution of cases involving familial DNA and Investigative Genetic Genealogy, training of prosecutors and law enforcement on DNA and forensic evidence advancements, litigate DNA issues in the courts, assist prosecutors reviewing cases for conviction integrity, and investigate cases where forensic evidence has been obtained but no CODIS match was found. The proposal service area is the County of Erie in New York State. Violent crime continues to be a problem in Erie County, specifically the City of Buffalo. In 2019, crime statistics show that there were 3,388 violent crimes in Erie County with 2,533 occurring in the City of Buffalo. Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in homicides and non-homicide shooting victims in Erie County in the first four months of 2021. Statistics show a 78% increase in non-homicide shooting victims through the first 4 months of 2021 when compared to the same time period in 2020, from 51 to 91. Homicides have also increased by 28% over the same time period. This proposal benefits a number of different populations. First and foremost, victims of crime and their families will benefit from a speedier resolution to the criminal case that, due to a lack in resources available, may have been awaiting prosecution for months or even years. Secondly, the community at large, specifically communities of color and high-poverty areas where a majority of violent crime occurs in Erie County, will benefit by getting criminals off the street sooner making communities safer.