A dozen new employees started work in the city police crime lab yesterday, bolstering an effort to catch up on a backlog of more than 3,000 unsolved rape and homicide cases where DNA testing could prove helpful.
The positions are being funded through a $1.9 million National Institute of Justice grant, passed through the Maryland State Police to the Baltimore Police Department.
Before yesterday, two people in the crime lab were assigned the duty of screening current and old cases to determine if evidence should be sent for DNA testing. As of yesterday, there are 14, said crime lab director Ed Koch.
In 2001, the lab had a 5,100-case backlog, which has since been reduced to about 3,200. In a year, Koch said he hopes to reduce that backlog to less than 1,000. That includes only rape and homicide cases.
The grant will also pay for additional equipment and the cost of some testing, Koch said.
The new employees will sort through cases and decide which ones should be sent for testing, which is done at a private lab. The results are then analyzed and matched against any DNA stored in law enforcement databases.
The department received a similar grant in 2002 that helped begin a reduction of the backlog, Koch said.