Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $152,809)
The Indian River Crime Laboratory (IRCL) provides scientific and technical services to law enforcement agencies within the 19th Judicial Circuit of Florida including: St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee and Martin counties. With a staff of 15 employees, the laboratory serves a population of greater than 640,000 individuals. The Forensic Biology Unit (FBU) receives approximately 500 requests a year and currently has two full time caseworking DNA analysts and two full time serology screeners. The screeners will begin DNA Analysis training in mid-2018 and are anticipated to work cases start to finish by mid-2019 effectively doubling the DNA analysis capabilities.
With the addition of two screeners several processes were evaluated and bottlenecks were identified:
1) Several pieces of equipment used in the screening of evidence or making of reagents are outdated and not working optimally. This results in the lack of equipment access during examinations.
2) There has been a significant increase in the number of samples collected per sexual assault case. Coupled with additional screeners producing samples for DNA analysis faster, the finite capacity of the current long-term storage was highlighted. Additional samples will require transfer from the freezer to an alternate medium for future storage. The aging temperature monitoring system will need upgrading to ensure proper environmental conditions for evidence integrity.
3) The increased number of samples collected per case increases the amount of time of processing. Implementing an upfront rapid screening process would allow DNA analysts to focus on those samples identified as more likely to produce an informative profile.
4) Finally, forensic biology units have been inundated with changes in technologies, expanded kit chemistries, enhanced standard requirements and updated statistical approaches. Changes in a forensic laboratory require significant resources to implement. For a small staffed laboratory such as the IRCL there is significant benefit in the networking of ideas from outside colleagues and early adopters on the cost-benefit achieved with chosen implemented workflows.
The proposed approaches to these bottlenecks are detailed in the Program Narrative of the application, including a list of the goals and objectives. Itemized costs associated with this proposal can be found in the Budget Detail attachment. It is anticipated with a successful completion of the proposed project, the decrease in processing time and increase in capacity will result in a 20% decrease in the Forensic Biology Unit backlog of cases.