Arizona DPS gets faster DNA-processing equipment

May 14, 2014, 5:00 AM | Updated: 5:00 am

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Public Safety has some new equipment it says will help speed up its investigations.

The equipment is called Rapid DNA Instruments, and DPS Crime Laboratory Superintendent Vince Figarelli said it allows officers to process DNA samples on their own so they can make preliminary identifications without having to send it to the crime lab first.

“It’s a huge improvement because what an officer normally has to do is submit it from their agency, (which) brings it to DPS and then, depending on the type of case, it’s in a backlog of DNA cases here at the laboratory,” he said.

Figarelli said the equipment can process DNA samples in about 90 minutes, which he said could then allow investigators to link suspects and evidence faster and potentially save lives.

“The whole point is to get the investigative lead as soon as possible to the detective so that that individual doesn’t commit any further crimes,” he said.

In addition to the faster processing of DNA samples, Figarelli said the department has introduced a new database of arrested or convicted offenders in Arizona that officers can search while using the new DNA equipment.

Figarelli said it’s another helpful tool because to cross check a DNA sample involves entering it into the national database known as CODIS — or the Combined DNA Index System — which can only be used after full processing from a crime lab.

Now, officers can do a preliminary search of Arizona samples, which makes up a large percent of DPS requests.

“Approximately 90 percent of our hits are within Arizona,” he said.

Officers must be trained to use the equipment, and Figarelli said 10 officers so far have completed a training course — with more courses will follow.

DPS currently has one rapid instrument in Phoenix, but Figarelli said its adding two more in Tucson and in Flagstaff.

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Arizona DPS gets faster DNA-processing equipment