Local News

State Committee Approves Plan To Add Staff To SBI Crime Lab

Posted December 3, 2002

— A state legislative committee gave crime victims an early Christmas present by approving a plan to add more staff to the State Bureau of Investigation's crime lab.

Last April, a WRAL investigation discovered that DNA evidence in thousands of cases across the state is never analyzed. The State Bureau of Investigation crime lab put blame for the issue on a staffing shortage.

After WRAL's story, Attorney General Roy Cooper named DNA analysis as his No. 1 priority.

Months ago, WRAL talked to a rape survivor still waiting for justice 10 years after the crime. Like thousands of other cases, the DNA evidence from her attacker sits on a local police department shelf, never having been analyzed.

"It is disturbing to a lot of lab personnel, and it should be disturbing to a lot of the public," said Jerry Richardson, director of the SBI crime lab.

"We have the science to catch violent criminals and get them off the street," Cooper said. "It is unacceptable not to use that science to the fullest extent."

Cooper said he wants to reassign three more agents to analyze DNA. Additionally, he wants to hire and train six new analysts and one technician. That will add to the current DNA staff of five, enabling agents to work on as many as 100 cold cases a month.

One problem with the new proposal will be lab space.

"We're going to be doubling up," Richardson said. "We're going to have people working out of it, I guess, sharing office space, sharing work areas -- things like that."

Cooper said he also wants to increase the lab's DNA database of violent offenders and stalkers. States that take blood samples from all convicted felons get far more DNA matches and solve more crimes, but officials said it also costs more money.

"Crime doesn't take a holiday for a budget crisis," Cooper said. "We must use this technology to protect the public."

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