KCPD: Crime lab significantly reducing backlog of DNA samples to bring justice to victims

Published: May. 5, 2023 at 5:06 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - To help victims receive justice sooner, the Kansas City Police Crime Lab is significantly reducing the backlog of DNA samples waiting for DNA testing.

Since January of 2022, the backlog has decreased from 550 cases to under 260.

Each year, the KCPD crime lab receives about 1,500 requests for DNA testing for unique case numbers. DNA testing of a sexual kit requires about 15 hours of hands-on processing time to receive results.

“We work violent crimes, including sexual assaults and homicides, and nonviolent crimes -- such as property crimes, burglaries, auto thefts -- and missing persons cases and unidentified remains,” said Jennifer Howard, Supervisor of the Biology Section.

The crime lab reached its highest backlog in 2018 with well over 1,000 cases waiting for testing at the time.

“If you are a victim of a violent crime, you are going to see results much faster,” Howard said. “We were at about nine months for violent crimes and sometimes over a year and a half for nonviolent crimes, because we prioritize violent crimes.”

With additional staffing, improved efficiencies and new instrumentation and automation equipment, DNA testing results can now be received in 70 days.

“If you have your car stolen, and we swab that,” Howard said. “Now, we will be able to provide those DNA results much faster so that they can help with that investigation.”

The Police Foundation of Kansas City donated new instrumentation and automation equipment, including a piece of equipment used for DNA extraction to separate DNA from other parts of the cell and other biological material.

“We do a lot of pipetting of liquids,” Howard said. “We can do that manually or, now, we can have a second instrument that can move those liquids for us so that we don’t have to do it manually.”

Last year, the KCPD recorded 434 DNA “hits” using a national DNA database. A hit means DNA that was tested at the crime lab for a specific case matched the DNA of a person who was already in the national database, or DNA profiles obtained from two or more crime scenes were linked.

With the increased staffing and new equipment, the turnaround time for DNA testing decreased from more than five months to 70 days.

“We are just one small part of the entire process, but anything we can do to make that process faster and more efficient is helpful for everyone,” Howard said.