2004-11-26 / Community

Weiner: Money To Test Crime Scene DNA

Congress has passed legislation providing police and prosecutors with $110 million to test crime scene DNA.  The funds are the first installment of $755 million to be delivered over the next five years under language crafted by Representative. Anthony Weiner, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

In 1996, New York began storing DNA samples from convicted felons in data banks, and comparing them to samples taken from crime scenes. But for years “rape kits”-DNA collected during rape investigations-went untested, with 16,000 piling up in police warehouses. 

In 1999, Weiner wrote the first legislation to fund the testing of rape kits and crime scene DNA. This year, he teamed up with a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of legislators, including Senators Biden and Hatch, and Reps. Green, Sensenbrenner, Delahunt, LaHood, Nadler, and Maloney as well as with civil rights activists to craft legislation- the Debbie Smith Act —to both bring dangerous predators to justice, and protect the rights of the wrongly accused. 

Under a provision of the bill authored by Weiner, cities and states will receive $755 million over the next five years to test DNA crime scene and convicted offender samples. The omnibus appropriation bill, which passed Congress, contains the first installment of those funds.

DNA breathes new life into cold cases, solving hundreds in New York City alone, and generating leads in hundreds more,” said Weiner. “It can be a miracle for victims of violent crime and their families.”

Three years ago, Rep. Weiner authored the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 , which became the first bill to ever provide federal funding to states to test unprocessed crime scene DNA evidence.

In the 107th Congress, he introduced the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act to extend the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 until 2008, and to increase funding for the analysis of crime scene samples by $300 million and for the analysis of convicted offender samples by $75 million.  

In the 108th Congress, his legislation was incorporated into the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act, and introduced by the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Weiner then worked with the Chair to include his provisions in the Achieving Justice Through DNA Technology Act , and, ultimately, the Debbie Smith Act .

The Debbie Smith Act was signed into law in October. Grants under the bill will be distributed via a formula developed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), with population a prime criteria. Under the formula, New York City will receive millions over the next five years.

Last year the city completed a three-year program to eliminate the rape kit backlog, thanks to a multi-million dollar investment by the City. But a Department of Justice study commissioned by Weiner found that officials estimate that there are up to 542,000 still untested DNA evidence collection kits across the U.S.

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