State Police Crime Lab facing backlog, officials hope rapid DNA tests can help

Millions of dollars are headed to Baton Rouge to try and help process DNA evidence quicker.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Millions of dollars are headed to Baton Rouge to try and help process DNA evidence quicker.

U.S. Congressman Garret Graves announced $13,309,311 from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that will aid local and State law enforcement efforts to prevent and control crime.

Part of the money will provide the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office with rapid DNA testing technology.

Officials are hopeful this will help with the backlog of DNA tests at the State Police Crime Lab.

“It means the people that are guilty, they are going to be held accountable much sooner, not leaving them out on the street to commit other crimes in longer periods of time,” said Congressman Garret Graves (R) of the 6th District.

Typical DNA testing can take up to 30 days. But rapid DNA can come back to investigators within 90 minutes if a suspect’s DNA is linked to other crimes.

“We want to prevent crimes before they happen, we want to solve crimes when they do happen, we want to give closure to the families, and we want to make sure we’re taking the dangerous criminal off the street,” said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Right now, Louisiana State Police’s Crime Lab serves at least nine parishes. That includes Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parishes, which leads to a backlog.

“You can imagine how that DNA lab is overwhelmed right now just with violent crime, and not even speaking about property crime. So this can really help us tremendously,” said Hillar Moore, District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish.

“The State Crime Lab, they’re going to continue to be doing their in-depth (testing), this is a new technology, a new capability that the Sheriff’s Office will actually have and control. So this is going to be a separate lab I guess is the best way to say it,” said Congressman Graves.

DA Hillar Moore is hopeful this rapid DNA testing will help law enforcement capture suspects sooner.

“Every day that goes by after a crime occurs, it’s not good for us. It ages, and it sometimes unfortunately ages out, and other things happen. So the quicker for us the better,” said Moore.

The swabs will create a DNA profile from a high-quality single source sample.

“I use blood as an example. where you have one single source as a drop of blood that you kind of know came from this person. It’s not a mixture of other blood or like a door handle,” said Moore.

While the rapid DNA test is one more tool for law enforcement, we’re told it can only be used in certain cases. And the funding will only cover a limited number of kits to start. All other DNA will still head to the State Police Crime Lab.

But Congressman Graves believes there’s still work to do.

“But Lester, while this is a step in the right direction, it is not all that it needs to be done. We’ve got to hire up more police officers, we’ve got to make sure we’re working with the judges and the judicial system, to hold these people accountable to keep them in jail,” said Congressman Graves.

This technology could also be used to clear anyone suspected of a crime.

Officials are hopeful this can all get started in the upcoming months.

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