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NIJ - Improving All Forensic Sciences

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2009
3 pages
This article of Police Chief reviews a few of the forensic science projects funded by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
NIJ recently received the results of a study that examined the effect that sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) have on rape cases as they move through the stages of reporting, investigation, and prosecution. The study found that having DNA evidence obtained in the SANE examination significantly affected how far a case moved through criminal justice processing. The number of sexual assault cases referred by police for prosecution increased by 6 percent after SANE programs were implemented in a Midwestern State, and the number of guilty pleas and convictions increased by 5 percent. In another NIJ-funded project, researchers recently found that it is possible to obtain a DNA profile of sperm beyond the standard 3-day span that many jurisdictions now use for collecting evidence from a rape victim. The study showed that by using certain evidence-collection procedures and lab analysis protocols, it is possible to obtain a DNA profile for up to 5 or 6 days after a sexual assault. A third NIJ-funded project showed that collecting DNA in burglary cases can result in twice the number of suspect identifications, arrests, and prosecutions compared to collecting only fingerprint evidence. NIJ is now expanding this research model to determine whether similar results can be achieved in car-theft cases. NIJ remains dedicated to improving all of the forensic sciences. Over the past 5 years, NIJ has provided just over $66 million in competitively awarded research grants to the scientific community for improving the scientific foundation of the forensic disciplines.

Date Published: September 1, 2009