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DNA Funding for Forensics Labs Eases Case Backlogs

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DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction (CEBR) Program
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DNA evidence has become an increasingly important tool for solving crimes, particularly violent crimes. Yet forensic crime laboratories across the country often struggle to keep up with the volume of requests for evidence analysis due to shortages in staff and equipment. A Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) grant program is helping fix these shortages.

BJA’s Formula DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction (CEBR) Program helps forensic laboratories increase their capacity to process DNA samples by adding staff or upgrading equipment. The goal is to increase the number of forensic DNA and DNA database samples processed for entry into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which will help agencies across the country solve crimes. In 2023, BJA introduced a new Competitive CEBR program with the aim to maximize the effective utilization of DNA technology to solve crime and protect public safety.

The Michigan State Police are using Formula and Competitive CEBR funds to add several positions to process DNA evidence, obtain new instruments, and launch technical initiatives.

"Because of budget constraints, it is difficult to obtain new DNA positions,” said Lauren Lu, Assistant Division Director and Quality Assurance Manager for the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division. Michigan State Police are using CEBR funds to support limited overtime for staff to help reduce DNA processing backlogs and to provide continuing education to DNA personnel.

“CEBR is an excellent opportunity to get additional funding for purely a technical project,” Lu added. Michigan State Police used Competitive CEBR funds to launch new DNA extraction methods that allow them to process challenging samples, such as samples with low amounts of DNA, DNA from multiple people mixed together, and DNA that might be broken down or simply really dirty due to where the evidence was found. "If we successfully validate the niche extraction methods, we can potentially yield a higher volume of good data and samples that can then be used to close criminal cases."

"I encourage other state and local governments to apply. I appreciated the flexibility of the solicitation and varied objectives on which it can be used." Lauren Lu, Assistant Division Director and Quality Assurance Manager, Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division

With increased capacity to process more DNA samples for entry into CODIS, CEBR-funded laboratories are able to help law enforcement reduce violent crime, support prosecutors in their efforts to meet their mission, and create safer communities.

To learn more about BJA’s CEBR Program or how your agency can apply for funding, visit the CEBR webpage.

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Date Published: April 2, 2024