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BJA FY 2023 Competitive DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction (CEBR) Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $434,383)

The Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (AKSCDL), a division of the Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS), is solely responsible for analyzing evidentiary material associated with criminal investigations statewide. All forensic biology/DNA work is performed at the laboratory in Anchorage. Pursuant to AS44.41.035, the DPS-AKSCDL is also the agency responsible for conducting analysis on DNA samples collected from convicted felony and misdemeanor offenders as well as certain felony misdemeanor arrestees in the state of Alaska; the AKSCDL is responsible for storing and maintaining the resultant profiles in the State DNA Index System. 

Nearly 20% of the laboratory’s forensic cases are submitted for DNA analysis, with over half of those cases including a sexual assault offense. Overall, the number of requests submitted to the laboratory has continued to rise in recent years, in part owing to “test all” Sexual Assault Kit legislation that was enacted in January of 2020. The increase in cases is anticipated to continue as legislated enacted in January of 2023 expanded the scope of chargeable offenses by removing the requirement for an element of force.

As the only forensic laboratory providing DNA analysis in the State of Alaska, the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (AKSCDL) has the potential to be the rate limiting step in the criminal justice system for prosecuting these cases. With recent staffing increases, to handle the high volume of sexual assaults, and the complex nature of the analysis, the forensic biology unit is significantly more expensive to operate than other laboratory disciplines. The Federal funding from this award will help to alleviate this burden by providing upgraded equipment for processing these cases and the offender database samples that are received pursuant to AS44.41.035.

Currently, the laboratory sees DNA interpretation and reviews as the greatest hindrance to achieving a faster turnaround time on DNA casework requests. During the current calendar year, the laboratory is planning to procure and validate probabilistic genotyping software to facilitate more comprehensive and automated interpretation of DNA casework mixtures. Funding from this award will assist the laboratory in increasing its capacity for complex mixture interpretation by providing for additional computers and licenses for the probabilistic genotyping software, as well as in-house training of staff on the new software and procedures.

Date Created: September 8, 2023