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$250k DOJ grant to help with Scottsdale PD's DNA kit backlog

Scottsdale city council recently approved the funding, allowing the police department to accept the grant money.
Scottsdale Police Department
Posted at 10:37 AM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 16:25:35-05

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Scottsdale Police Department has been dealing with a backlog in its forensic labs, specifically relating to DNA testing.

The department applied for and received a $250,000 Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2023 Department of Justice DNA Capacity Enhancement Backlog Reduction formula grant to continue funding two DNA scientists that focus on the backlogged cases. The grant funds will also be used to purchase the necessary licenses and equipment to allow the scientists to process the cases.

Last month, Scottsdale city council approved the funding, allowing the police department to accept the grant money.

The police department reported to the city council that while the number of DNA cases submitted to the lab continues to increase, so does the number of backlogged DNA cases.

The department said a DNA case is considered “backlogged" if forensic analysis does not begin within 30 days.

At the end of calendar year 2022, Scottsdale PD said the number of cases backlogged remained "exceptionally high," reporting the following backlogged DNA cases at the end of the following years:

2020 - 176 cases & items
2021 - 264 cases & items
2022 - 336 cases & items

As of the end of October, Scottsdale Police said this was where their backlog stood:

-129 backlogged sex assault kits, with 67 in the process of being tested.
-71 person crimes and/or weapons violation crimes requested items, with 32 in the process of being tested.
-37 property crimes requested items, with 15 in the process of being tested.

Requested items means there may be several items connected to a single case.

Scottsdale Police Officer Aaron Bolin explained to ABC15 that the backlog's cause is two-fold: understaffing and improved technology.

"With technology advancing, with DNA testing technology advancing, we are gathering more samples on different cases, which then brings in more of a workload," Bolin said. "When you're short-staffed, but have more of a workload, that backlog can happen pretty quickly, unfortunately."

Some concern from the public the department has heard is whether a backlog means there are potentially dangerous criminals still out on the streets that have yet to be apprehended.

Bolin said that's not typically the case and, to his knowledge, the backlog has had no negative effect on any cases being investigated or prosecuted.

"Anytime there is a sample that is from a potentially dangerous, violent suspect, those cases get moved to the front. That's not going to be part of this backlog," Bolin said. "What most of this backlog is for are cases where we already have an identified suspect, they may already have been arrested, and now we're waiting to finish the processing to make sure this evidence is ready for court."

The police department must re-apply for the grant each year in order to continue receiving it.