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LAPD Clearing Up Cold Cases; State Grant Aids in DNA Testing Leading To Suspects in Sex-Based Crimes

By Jason Kandel, The Daily News of Los Angeles

With the help of a three-year, $50 million grant from the state's Cold Hit Program, the Los Angeles Police Department has been able to perform DNA analysis on more than 1,700 backlogged sex-crime cases and has identified 77 suspects, officials announced Monday. Los Angeles police have made three arrests out of the 77 cases; 60 remain under investigation; and in 14 cases the victims were uncooperative or have not been located.

Chief William Bratton said he believes police are moving forward with the hope of bringing justice to victims in the cases.

"We're really on the beginning of a revolution," Bratton said. "The state Cold Hit Program has enabled us to clear this backlog of DNA evidence which is critical to our efforts to identify, apprehend and prosecute those guilty of committing sex-based crimes."

The grant from the California Department of Justice was awarded in July 2001 and has enabled the LAPD to hire five extra criminalists to analyze physical evidence collected in cases from Jan. 1, 1995 to Sept. 30, 2003, that had no named suspects.

The current statute of limitations on these cases prevents authorities from going back further than 1995 unless the sex crime was part of a homicide.

"Make no mistake about it, sex-based crimes are violent crimes mostly aimed at women," said Mayor James Hahn. "Clearing this backlog is crucial in our efforts to ensure justice."

Advocates for victims of rape celebrated the good news.

"What's significant about this is that the LAPD has gone from losing, misplacing and destroying evidence to analyzing all of their backlog," said Patti Giggens, executive director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. "It restores the confidence that the DNA science is really a tool for crime prevention and rape prevention. We have a ways to go. But we're definitely on our way now."

California law requires blood and saliva samples to be taken from individuals convicted of any of nine specified felony sexual assaults and other violent crimes.

The samples yield DNA profiles, which are stored in the state Department of Justice's Convicted Felon DNA Databank in Berkeley. DNA profiles extracted from crime scene evidence are compared with DNA profiles in the database.

Jason Kandel, (818) 713-3664

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