New changes at Illinois crime labs aim to reduce DNA evidence backlog

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois State Police (ISP) announced Wednesday new efforts to reduce the DNA evidence backlog at state crime labs.

The improvements come after the ABC7 I-Team exposed hundreds of backlogged Chicago murder cases.

On Wednesday, state police crime lab experts showed how they are implementing a new system, which they say will streamline the process of evidence submission and analysis.

RELATED: Hundreds of Chicago murders may remain unsolved due to DNA processing delays

State police showed how an application and web-based program can inform law enforcement immediately, while lab processing is being done. It's called Laboratory Information Management System or LIMS.

Illinois State Police said it is more efficient way to effectively process crime data in Illinois' state laboratories. Starting at the crime scene, investigators use iPads or "crime pads" to take pictures and record and process the crime scene.

This method cuts down on an otherwise slow paper process. A receipt is printed along with the evidence. Then it goes to the intake area to be scanned. After that, it's brought back to the lab for the analysis.

This technology has been out for a while, but only now being used.

RELATED: Lawmakers question crime lab officials following I-Team report on DNA analysis delays

"I think there are always budget issues and it is not a quick process. It's not a quick process of when you see something say, 'Hey, let's use that,'" said Lt. Rebecca Hooks, of ISP's Crime Scene Services. "We already had standard operating procedures. We had forms that we were using with PDFs before so we were using computers before but some people were still using paper."

ISP officials also say that it had to make sure the technology was integrated properly with the old process. The new system was implemented in December.
In November, the I-Team first told you about the 750 backlogged murder cases form the last three years.

RELATED: Illinois State Police making changes to address DNA processing delays

Shortly afterwards, Illinois legislators held public hearings. ISP lab officials told them the total forensic backlog of all crimes was close to 14,000 and more than 3,600 of those cases are DNA related.

Gov.Pritzker pledged to reduce the backlog, "They shouldn't have to live that tragedy also thru the delay forensics and the delay in the processing of cases and that is one of the reasons why we are so dedicated here to improving just this LIMS system."

ISP's Acting Director Brendan Kelly added, "The LIMS system, this particular system, will allow local law enforcement and the over 1000 agencies that the state police provide forensic services to have a better understanding of where the particular forensic analysis process is going with a particular case. This is a better way for them to access that data."

ISP also says it will also implement new technology Rapid DNA which can sometimes be used to dramatically cut down the processing time of certain DNA samples from suspects.

In addition, the crime lab says it has hired more forensic scientists and conducted more staff meetings.
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