The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is honoring the dedicated professionals of the DPS Crime Laboratory Division as part of National Forensic Science Week, which is scheduled from September 17 to September 23. This week serves as a platform to acknowledge the crucial forensic science work happening in laboratories nationwide, including the 16 accredited DPS crime labs serving Texas.
DPS Director Steven McCraw expressed appreciation for the invaluable contributions of the DPS Crime Lab Division, highlighting its daily impact on the lives of Texans. He emphasized that their diligent efforts facilitate the work of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defenders across the state, ultimately enhancing public safety.
During the past year, the DPS Crime Laboratory Division has achieved several milestones:
HB 1399 Aids Unsolved Cases: Approximately 615 additional unsolved cases have received assistance through HB 1399, a legislation from the 86th Legislature. This law mandates the collection of DNA samples from individuals arrested for specific felonies. These samples are processed at the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) Laboratory in Austin and are included in a database to identify potential DNA matches between arrestees and unsolved cases nationwide.
Expansion of DNA Collection: Effective September 1, 2023, House Bill 3956 from the 88th Legislature requires booking facilities to collect DNA samples from all arrestees charged with felony class offenses occurring on or after that date. This expansion builds upon HB 1399, enabling more cases to be resolved promptly at the time of arrest, bolstering public safety efforts.
Swift Resolution of Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs): DPS laboratories throughout Texas maintain a turnaround time of fewer than 90 calendar days for sexual assault kits (SAKs). Additionally, the sexual assault evidence-tracking program continues to allow survivors to discreetly monitor and receive updates on the status of their evidence. As of August 31, 2023, Texas marked the completion of the fourth year of statewide electronic sexual assault evidence (SAE) tracking, overseeing 40,367 SAKs in Track-Kit.
Clearing Backlog of Untested SAKs: DPS is actively addressing the backlog of older, previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits that were stored, untested, in property rooms across the state. Since March 2022, the department has successfully processed 1,025 SAKs as part of this initiative.
Reduced Turnaround Times for Forensic Analysis: DPS remains committed to maintaining a swift turnaround time of 30 calendar days or less (from submission) for the analysis of blood alcohol content in cases related to driving under the influence. The 88th Legislature allocated approximately $15 million for the upcoming biennium to enhance the turnaround time for forensic analysis detecting the presence of drugs in biological samples, including those from drivers and sexual assault survivors.
These achievements reflect the ongoing dedication of the DPS Crime Laboratory Division in serving the people of Texas and furthering the cause of justice through forensic science.