DNA evidence has become crucial in many trials, placing culprits at the scene of a crime, but Prince George's County police are facing the biggest backlog of DNA evidence in Maryland.
Prince George’s County police created a new Bureau of Forensic Science and Intelligence in January with a crime scene investigation division to solve crimes resulting in arrests, but their laboratory is now at capacity and is no longer able to keep up with the demand for DNA analysis.
There is a backlog of 654 DNA cases, including rapes, assaults and other violent crimes.
“The process that we have put together in cooperation with the courts and the State’s Attorney’s Office means that the cases that are approaching trial date, that are needed to make a compelling case, will be done and that evidence will be available, and we prioritize from there about the next case and the next case and the next case across a broad spectrum of crimes,” Deputy Chief Hank Stawinski said.
The DNA evidence backlog in Prince George's County is the biggest in Maryland, compared to 454 in Baltimore, 259 in Anne Arundel County and 28 in Montgomery County.
“Justice will not be delayed or denied in Prince George’s County because of a DNA issue,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney spokesman John Erzen said. “We work hand in hand with the police department to make sure that the cases where the trial is coming up or if it’s a violent offender or if it’s just a case where we know that the DNA evidence will be critical to us moving forward with trial and having the best possible opportunities to secure a guilty conviction we make sure to work with them to have that DNA in time and make sure there are no issues.”
Prince George's County is moving its DNA analysis to its new forensic evidence processing facility and is seeking more state and federal money. The county will hire a director with a Ph.D. in forensic sciences.
The county’s goal is to have the capacity to catalog DNA and cross-match it to convict criminals involved in multiple crimes.