CSI: Orange County
Building a Better DNA Database
With the recent passage of Proposition 69 in California, counties there will have to collect DNA for an expanded list of offenders. Many are looking to Orange County as a model for how to create successful databases of DNA information.
The county got an early jump on base building. Five years ago, it started collecting all local DNA samples in a central repository in the sheriff's office and sending those samples to a state lab that extracts, analyzes and codes the DNA. The results then go into a database within the county's district attorney's office called TRACKRS. The Taskforce Review Aimed at Catching Killers, Rapists and Sexual Offenders keeps countywide information, including data from more than 20 cities.
Until the state law passed, only homicides and sexual assault cases required DNA testing. With the passage of the new law, that list will grow exponentially. Now, those who have to submit DNA samples include convicted felons, registered sex and arson offenders and adults and juveniles in mental health or sex offender treatment programs who commit felonies. By 2009, all adults arrested for a felony will have to submit DNA samples.
Orange County is preparing for that expansion by setting up a committee to look at improving existing procedures. The goal is to capture as many samples as possible. "We don't want anyone to slip through the cracks," says TRACKRS Commander John Santy, noting that DNA is not only a key to catching criminals but also helps exonerate innocent people.