FBI, Eight States Share Information on DNA Evidence

Article excerpt

The FBI and eight states, including Virginia, have joined forces to link unsolved serial violent crimes to each other and to known sex offenders through an identification program known as the National DNA Index System.

Steve Niezgoda, program manager, said the system will enable public forensics laboratories throughout the United States to exchange and compare DNA profiles or genetic characteristics electronically - linking unsolved crimes to potential suspects.

"This is very exciting technology," Mr. Niezgoda said, noting that the index could soon have as many as 400,000 profiles that law enforcement authorities can target for potential matches.

The participating states, along with Virginia, are California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah. They began verifying potential matches Dec. 1 after the FBI searched DNA profiles developed from crime scene evidence against DNA profiles of convicted sex offenders.

The system, Mr. Niezgoda said, currently contains about 75,000 convicted offender profiles and 3,500 casework studies. He said the FBI plans to make the program fully operational during spring 1998 and eventually will invite all states to participate.

The offender profiles include DNA matches from persons convicted of crimes, samples recovered from crime scenes and samples recovered from unidentified human remains. Mr. Niezgoda said the DNA Identification Act of 1994 authorized $25 million over the next five years for constructing and operating the system.

The new program is considered the "top tier" of the FBI's already existing Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which was developed by the bureau in 1990 and allows for interstate comparison of DNA samples. CODIS is currently installed in 80 laboratories in 36 states and the District. To date, CODIS has generated more than 200 matches to assist hundreds of investigations.

Forty-eight states have passed legislation requiring convicted offenders to provide samples for the DNA database. …