Leon County Sheriff's Office, FDLA unveil new Rapid DNA collection

Published: Feb. 26, 2020 at 7:04 PM EST
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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

February 26, 2020

LEON COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- A major milestone for DNA testing is reached as Leon County unveils a new automated collection system.

On Wednesday, the Leon County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Rapid DNA. The new in-house collection system allows DNA sampling to be added to the Florida Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database in under two hours.

Before this new system, law enforcement officials said all samples needed to be transported to the state crime lab, either by mail or physical transport. The crime lab processes samples from every sheriff's office in the state, which means sometimes getting them processed could take several weeks.

According to Florida law, everyone arrested for a felony is required to submit a DNA sample. Law enforcement officials said the CODIS database is linked with agencies all across the nation. That means, for example, if a person committed a crime in another state and is arrested in Leon County, the results can link them back to the original crime.

But when those results take several weeks, that person could bond out and no longer be in custody.

Authorities said the new system means those results come back before a person can be released.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said about 350 unidentified DNA samples 'hit' a match every month. This new system, they said, is meant to rapidly increase that, speeding up how they can solve crimes and getting dangerous criminals off the street.

"These hits are helping solve those violent offenses, and really giving those victims the necessary closure that they were looking for for so many years," said Special Agency in Charge Mark Perez. "This Rapid DNA will just exponentially increase those clearance rates."

Law enforcement officials said the technology has been in the works for ten years.

Florida is one of only five pilot states across the nation chosen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Authorities said the pilots are meant to establish a national standard for the program, in hopes of expanding to more agencies nationwide.

The sheriff's office said the system is now up and running, and any incoming felony arrestees will have samples taken through Rapid DNA.