SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Improved technology and an expanding DNA database have helped solve thousands of crimes in Texas since the national system was created more than 15 years ago, experts say.
At least 643 homicides are among the Texas cases solved with assistance from the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/VssZs5 ) reported Wednesday.
"Many of these crimes might never have been solved if not for this database," said Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Registered sex offenders, convicted felons and youths in the Texas juvenile justice system must provide samples. The number of samples of offenders' DNA stored in the Texas database has mushroomed to more than 660,000.
"The more samples in the pool, the greater opportunity for a match," said Skylor Hearn, who oversees the crime lab that manages the state's database. "There is a degree of recidivism in the criminal world, and we're catching up to them."
Texas averaged about 200 matches annually during the first five years after the national database was created in 1996. That number rose to an average 1,000 hits annually for the next 10 years, records show.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston uses computer automation to help process large batches of samples.
"We used to process just a dozen samples a month, but now we're averaging 400. Few other labs in the country can beat that," said the lab's director, Dr. Roger Kahn, explaining how automation has replaced the repetitive tasks once done manually.
Harris County also has a special team that it can dispatch to collect potential DNA from sensitive homicide scenes. As a result of these advancements, Kahn said his lab was responsible for nearly 25 percent of the estimated more than 10,000 crimes solved.
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com