$1.5 million going to DPS next year to expand rapid DNA testing

DPS plan to buy more to not only have at crime scenes but at booking locations, and there’s a reason why that could make a huge difference.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 7:47 PM MST|Updated: May. 30, 2023 at 8:25 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- $1.5 million is heading to DPS next year for one thing in particular: rapid DNA testing. In a world where DNA technology is advancing faster than ever, DPS said these rapid machines could make the difference in catching violent criminals who have slipped through the cracks.

We’re talking about making a DNA identification in a matter of 60 minutes versus 60 days. It’s a night and day comparison. When time is of the essence for solving any major crime, this will make a big difference when somebody is arrested. “We didn’t even have DNA back 32 years ago. We were just starting right after I started,” said Vince Figarelli, the superintendent of the DPS crime lab.

Figarelli worked his way up since starting in the lab in the early 90s. He’s watched the evolution of DNA and said that more than ever, rapid DNA testing is needed, and they will use that chunk of money for more. “The rapid DNA is an instrument where you can get a DNA profile within 1.5 to 2 hours,” he said.

What is the difference between the tests? He said regular DNA testing can take months. However, all cases have an average DPS DNA turnaround time of 60-65 days. Figarelli said the state has nine rapid DNA testing machines, each costing $150,000, and they’re all connected to a database of those who have been arrested.

He said they plan to buy more to not only have at crime scenes but at booking locations, and there’s a reason why that could make a huge difference. “If they got arrested for something like a lower-level crime where they might be released, instead, you see they committed this other crime, and they could get held over, so they don’t get released and flee or are no longer in custody,” said Figarelli.

It doesn’t take much DNA for it to work. It can potentially process while detectives are still at a crime scene and before a suspect can get very far. “Let’s say it’s blood at a point of entry for a burglary. That’s more than enough blood to do with rapid DNA. You take that blood, analyze it, and they can identify the person immediately, so within hours, they can have the identification of a potential perpetrator,” Figarelli explained.

He said this will make a difference in places like Yuma or the outskirts of Arizona, where it can sometimes take two weeks to get the DNA to DPS here in Phoenix. These machines will eliminate that wait time too.

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