Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2009, $985,875)
The Recovery Act Edward Byrne Memorial Competitive Grant Program (Byrne Competitive Program) will help communities improve the capacity of state and local justice systems and provide for national support efforts including training and technical assistance programs strategically targeted to address local needs. This competitive grant announcement focuses on initiatives in eight areas: 1) preventing and reducing violent crime through community-based data-driven approaches; 2) providing funding for neighborhood-based probation and parole officers; 3) reducing mortgage fraud and crime related to vacant properties; 4) hiring of civilian support personnel in law enforcement (training staff, analysts, dispatchers, etc.); 5) enhancing forensic and crime scene investigations; 6) improving resources and services for victims of crime; 7) supporting problem-solving courts; and 8) national training and technical assistance partnerships.
Under category 5, the New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) will use the grant award to prevent layoffs and preserve operational capacity within the Forensic Biology Department by retaining five Criminalist Level I positions and hiring one senior level professional with experience in crime scene reconstruction and latent blood development to support the expanded demands of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), also part of OCME. The current financial crisis facing the State and City of New York has already impacted the operational capacity of both OCME departments. City budget cuts have forced OCME to reduce its operating budget by 12 percent starting in fiscal year 2010. To meet this target, OCME has been forced to eliminate Forensic Biology Department vacancies and planned hires and to postpone additional SIU staffing needs. As the city continues to experience further financial problems, OCME will have no alternative but to lay off existing staff.
The Forensic Biology Department is the nation's largest public forensic DNA laboratory, performing DNA analysis on nearly every category of crime occurring in the City of New York (e.g., homicide, sexual assault, property crimes, and gun/weapons possession cases). In 2008, the Forensic Biology Department received over 41,545 items of crime scene evidence for testing. Due to this large volume of casework, OCME is also the nation's largest contributor of forensic crime scene DNA profiles to the national DNA database and the Combined DNA Index System. Another critical OCME department, SIU, aids the New York Police Department in crime scene reconstruction and latent bloodstain analysis. Due to the forensic expertise and advanced technology employed by SIU, the demand for these services has grown significantly.