Northam: Virginia DNA Data Bank has 15,000th ‘hit’ linking unsolved crime with stored DNA profile

Virginia

An employe of a genetic institute prepares a DNA sample in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia’s Department of Forensic Science has reached a milestone.

On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the department’s DNA Data Bank had gotten its 15,000th “hit” — meaning a DNA profile in the system had been linked with an unsolved crime.

The data bank has been in use in Virginia since its creation in 1989. DNA profiles from offenders or other crime scenes is logged into the system and used to give law enforcement investigative leads, often in cold cases.

“Each of the 15,000 hits has meant answers and justice for people impacted by a crime,” said Northam. “The databank has led to convictions as well as exonerations, helping make our communities safer. This milestone is a testament to the innovative spirit in Virginia and our investments in science and technology.”

Since the data bank’s initial creation, the General Assembly has passed legislation that broadens the types of crimes for which DNA samples are collected.

The bank also receives samples from people who have been convicted of a felony offense, including juveniles 14 years of age or older who have been adjudicated delinquent of felony offenses. Samples are also taken from people convicted of certain misdemeanors and those arrested for violent felony and burglary offenses.

DNA samples and related records in the system are destroyed when charges for those qualifying offenses are dismissed or a person is acquitted of a crime. The record for a person will remain if there’s another arrest or conviction that would require their sample to remain in the system.

As of Thursday, there were 480,000 offender and arrestee samples in the DNA Data Bank.

“The Department of Forensic Science has been a pioneer in the use of DNA technology,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “They were the first state laboratory to offer DNA analysis to law enforcement agencies, and the first to create a Data Bank of previously convicted sex offenders. I am proud of them for reaching this milestone of 15,000 cases. Because of this accomplishment, the Department of Forensic Science was able to assist in solving numerous previously unsolved crimes and help secure a myriad of criminal convictions, as well as exonerations.”

The Department of Forensic Science is nationally accredited and handles forensic laboratory services to state and local law enforcement agencies, medical examiners, commonwealth’s attorneys, fire departments, and state agencies.

“DNA technology used for the DNA Data Bank has advanced over the years with the addition of robotics to increase efficiency, and the expansion of the number of areas of DNA analyzedfrom 8 loci to 20 locito enhance sample selectivity,” said Department of Forensic Science Director Linda Jackson. “Each month, our dedicated Data Bank staff analyze the over 1,000 offender and arrestee samples received, typically within two to three weeks. We are proud of the role the Data Bank plays in providing investigative leads to help bring justice in these cases.” 

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