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Grant to bolster DNA analysis

The funding is part of a nationwide effort to reduce the backlog of cases which require DNA evidence.

Published September 20, 2005

LARGO - Eleven agencies throughout Florida will receive $8.8-million in grants as part of an ongoing federal initiative to strengthen DNA evidence as a crime-fighting tool, officials announced Monday at the National Forensic Science Technology Center.

The Largo center - a private, nonprofit organization that performs forensic research and provides training to law enforcement agencies - will receive $3.7-million, said Regina B. Schofield, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs. Other agencies in the state that will receive grants include sheriff's offices and two universities.

"As prosecutors ... we face the CSI effect," said Paul I. Perez, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, referring to the television show that focuses on how DNA evidence is used to solve crimes. "You have jurors with a certain expectation as far as what evidence will be presented. ... (The grants are) only going to help us on the law enforcement side as we seek convictions."

Nationally, 150 agencies received $98-million in this round of grants, said John Morgan, the Department of Justice's assistant director for science and technology. He said most of the money went to law enforcement agencies that handle actual cases.

The Justice Department's DNA Initiative is a five-year, $1-billion effort that aims to reduce the backlog of cases requiring DNA analysis around the country, officials said. So far, the initiative has granted $200-million.

The National Forensic Science Technology Center has about two dozen employees and is a resource center for law enforcement agencies and publicly funded crime laboratories throughout the United States. Its current work includes a training program that would show police officers how to gather DNA evidence for prosecutors without having to send cases to laboratories.

Besides being a tool to solve rapes and slayings, DNA can also help law enforcement officials solve a wider range of crimes such as auto thefts, Schofield said.

"We are now seeing we can apply those technologies to nonviolent crimes," she said.

[Last modified September 20, 2005, 01:55:19]

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