Authorities recently realized that the DNA of a significant
number of Virginia felons was missing from the state’s database,
prompting a massive review which could take several months,
according to the Washington Post. The missing records
could number in the thousands, diminishing the effectiveness of
DNA in criminal investigations nationwide. The problem in
Virginia came to light in December of last year when an
investigation into a series of Charlottesville rapes revealed
that the records of suspects with criminal backgrounds were not
included in the database.
Authorities are not certain why the gaps occurred but advanced
several possible explanations. One possibility is that local and
state agencies simply failed to take samples from offenders.
Paul Ferrara, Virginia crime lab director told the Washington
Post, “...until about 10 years ago, blood samples were to be
taken by qualified medical technicians, which may not have been
available.” Another possible explanation is clerical errors such
as misspelled names or incorrect social security numbers.
Experts are concerned there might be gaps in the DNA database in
other states for these and other reasons. Legislation in some
states to expand the pool of samples for offenders of lesser
offenses such as burglary may be taxing the system. Bill
Marbaker, president of the American Society of Crime Laboratory
Directors told the Washington Post, “Whenever you dump a
tremendous increase in the samples to be tracked and collected,
there’s more chances of things being overlooked and things
falling through the cracks.”
“Felons’ DNA Missing from VA Database,” Washington Post,
December 21, 2006.