Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $639,942)
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences Forensic Genetics Laboratory will use funds from the NIJ DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program to decrease the casework backlog and reduce turnaround time for violent crime cases. Harris County is the largest county in Texas and the fourth largest county in the nation. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences Forensic Genetics Laboratory provides forensic DNA analysis to approximately 65 law enforcement agencies in the county, excluding the Houston Police
Department. According to the 2013 United Sates Census Bureau, Harris County had an estimated population of 2.1 million people living outside the Houston city limits. In the Texas Crime Report for 2013 released by Texas Department of Public Safety, approximately 80,000 offenses were committed in Harris County comprised of 10,000 personal crimes and 70,000 property type crimes. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science Forensic Genetics Laboratory received 4,000 DNA cases in 2013 and 4,885 cases in 2014, with increases in both personal and property crime cases. Current staffing levels are not enough to handle this increase in case submissions. We will use NIJ grant funds to assist in reducing the current casework backlog and reduce case turnaround time by increasing personnel through contract staff and by purchasing supplies and software. Contract serologists will allow the laboratory to increase the number of cases screened for DNA processing each month. It is estimated that at least 155 cases will be processed by grant funded Serologists. Supplies will be purchased to analyze cases that could not be processed using county funding. It is estimated at least 256 cases will be analyzed with grant funded supplies. In addition to these measures to increase case output, the laboratory will also purchase a software system to aid in the deconvolution and statistical analysis of DNA mixtures. The software purchase will aid efforts to apply more precise statistical analysis to complex DNA mixtures that exhibit stochastic effects. Finally, funds from this award will be used to provide required continuing DNA education to approximately 18 DNA Analysts.
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