(The Center Square) – Illinois officials say they are making progress addressing the backlog of DNA cases in the state.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly reported a 48% reduction in biology-DNA assignments. The backlog has gone from 9,289 pending assignments in March 2019 to 4,857 at the end of last month. Kelly testified Thursday during a Senate Public Health Committee hearing and said he is pleased with the results but there is more work to do.
“Our progress is real and significant and every member of the Illinois State Police, from myself on down to every forensic scientist, will not be satisfied until all victims can trust the cause of justice will be advanced and not delayed by forensics,” Kelly said.
In May 2019, the average outstanding ISP DNA test was 247 days old. As of last November, it was down to 110 days old.
“The DNA biology section is completing 22% more assignments per month this year compared to 2019,” Kelly said. “That is the most measurable impact I think that is important for us in the standard.”
Kelly said the outcomes were achieved through a multi-prong strategy involving technology to help reduce the backlogs and test turnaround times, which included robotics and Rapid DNA. ISP also hired more forensic scientists and implemented a program to improve communication between police, prosecutors and labs.
The Rev. Floyd James of the Rock Baptist Church in Chicago said eliminating the DNA backlog could help reduce repeat offenders of crimes.
“The fact that we are not getting the cases cleared as quickly as we need to and many of the perpetrators that are committing these crimes are going on and committing further crimes,” James said.
The ISP Division of Forensic Services will move into a new laboratory in Decatur and plans to utilize the facility as a DNA lab to process evidence submitted from property crimes. Funding for the construction of a new forensics lab in the Joliet area was also secured and is moving forward under the Capital Development Board.