Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,559,379)
The City of Philadelphia accounted for 44% of the violent crimes reported in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has almost five times more violent crime than Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), which is the second most populous county in Pennsylvania. While the number of homicides and shootings were lower in 2022 (‐8.0% and ‐3.2%, respectively), the City previously experienced large increases over the previous three years. This has led to increased requests for forensic services from the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD). As the forensic service provider for the PPD, the Office of Forensic Science (OFS) is tasked with coordinating the forensic analysis for the City. While the crime trended downward for the year, the requests for DNA analysis increased by 12% from the previous year and increased by 167% over three years. Increases in the sensitivity of DNA technology and the successes of “test‐all” approaches for CODIS entries have resulted in the increased application of DNA analysis. Submissions now include evidence from non‐violent crimes, where the evidence may have been handled/touched by an individual and provide investigative information to the investigation. While the total number of submissions has increased, homicide and sexual assault evidence is prioritized, followed by other violent crime with significant investigative value, requests from the court, and probative evidence from non‐violent offenses. The unit has built the capacity in recent years to address all homicides and sexual assaults; however, other violent crimes and property crimes are typically processed only upon request.
During recent examinations of efficiency, the identified bottlenecks in the process included staffing, facility, technology and case flow challenges. In order to deal with these challenges, the OFS developed a comprehensive strategy to utilize base and grant funds to streamline processes and ultimately increase productivity. Several of the recent initiatives that developed from Lean Six Sigma projects have resulted in a 195% increase in operational capacity over the past six years. As the strategy to increase efficiency continues, the unit is planning to implement robotics and mixture deconvolution into the workflow using previous grant awards that will continue to increase the operational capacity and the impact of the analyses. In order address the current backlog and the potential increase in evidence submissions, the focus of this grant proposal is to further increase the operational capacity through resources in the form of overtime for current personnel and outsourced vendor services.