Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $500,000)
Through Palm Beach County’s Enhancement Strategy to Prosecute Cold Cases using DNA, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), a unit of the Palm Beach County Government and likewise an eligible applicant, is requesting $500,000 over a thirty-six-month project period to increase the number of violent crime cold case prosecutions and simultaneously decrease the number of unresolved violent crime Cold Cases awaiting prosecution; PBSO currently has 490 violent crime Cold Cases (Cold Cases). Of these 490 COLD CASES, there are 9 COLD CASES where suspect has been identified through DNA and is pending prosecution and 60 COLD CASES where DNA has been identified and the suspect is unknown.
PBSO’s Cold Case Squad and project partners, including the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office (SAO) and PBSO’s Forensic Biology Unit (FBU), have developed a strong infrastructure and collaborative, proven protocol for investigating Cold Cases, however limited resources for further investigation, including newly developed DNA and Forensic Genetic Genealogy testing have impeded the resolution of many of these backlogged, Cold Cases. The National Institute of Justice concurs with our experience, emphasizing the critical role of DNA and other Forensic Technology in resolving Cold Cases: “Experience has shown that Cold Case programs can solve a substantial number of violent crime Cold Cases, including homicides and sexual assaults. … Most frequently, DNA evidence has been the linchpin in solving these (cold) cases.” (http://nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/investigations/cold-case/pages/we…).
Palm Beach County(PBC) is the second largest in land mass with 1,970 square miles and the third largest Florida county in population with an estimated 1.497 full time residents. PBC is an exceptionally diverse community, home to areas of unparalleled wealth and boundless opportunity juxtaposed by areas of abject poverty and disproportionate rates of violent crime. PBSO is the largest law enforcement agency in PBC providing law enforcement services for all unincorporated areas of PBC and 13 incorporated municipalities, which include the City of Belle Glade and the City of Lake Worth Beach (see attached Priority Consideration 1A- Rural Challenges, High Poverty Areas, and Federally Designated Qualified Opportunity Zones).
Funding provided through this grant opportunity will increase PBSO’s capacity for Forensic Technology including Forensic Genetic Genealogy, ultimately leading to an increase in the number of prosecutions and a decrease in the number of unresolved, violent crime Cold Cases. As a result, long overdue justice can be served, unanswered questions and closure can be provided to those impacted by these heinous crimes, and public safety can be improved as in many instances these unknown suspects live freely, able to commit additional, violent crimes.