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DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $819,884)

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 neighboring counties.  The lab has 13 full-time Forensic Biologists and two DNA analysts assigned from Niagara County Crime Laboratory.  Additionally, the Quality Assurance Coordinator performs DNA/Biology technical reviews.  With the success of CODIS and heightened focus on violent crimes, DNA requests are 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, which is common in gun and overdose related crimes, but the complexity of the mixtures increases the turnaround time.  Together, these influences have resulted in a backlog and a need to reduce the number of samples awaiting DNA analysis. 

The goals of this project include to increase the capacity of the DNA section, reduce the number of forensic DNA samples awaiting analysis and prevent an increase to the existing backlog.

To achieve the project goals, the lab will use this award to fund overtime for processing and DNA analysis on backlogged cases and validating MaxPrep liquid handler.  The award will also continue funding 3 Forensic Biologist positions previously funded by federal grant programs.  Funding will also be used for overtime to manage the grant programmatic requirements, to purchase equipment necessary to increase long-term capacity and efficiency, and to purchase the necessary DNA supplies and maintenance contracts for DNA related software and equipment. Long-term equipment purchases include a Maxprep liquid handler, replacing aging thermal cyclers, and to support the next STRmix upgrade.
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 with the completion of 175 additional cases.  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.

Date Created: September 8, 2023