West Virginia receives funding for forensic research

WASHINGTON, DC (WOAY) – Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan today announced grants totaling almost $192 million to fund crime laboratories, decrease DNA backlogs, support basic and applied forensic research, and help law enforcement identify missing persons. The funding is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Justice, both part of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

“Developments in forensic science have given investigators an extraordinary array of tools that can be enlisted to solve crimes and bring answers to victims and survivors, often after many years and even decades,” said Sullivan. “These investments in crime-fighting technology, from DNA analysis to drug toxicology to forensic anthropology, will help identify and convict perpetrators, ensure justice for innocent victims and keep communities safe by deterring future criminal activity.”

Since 2004, the Office of Justice Programs has received an annual appropriation for DNA and other forensic science activities. Funds support DNA analysis, laboratory capacity enhancement and forensic science research that provides knowledge and tools to improve the quality and practice of forensic science.

Through the BJA DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program, more than $80.7 million to state and local jurisdictions is being provided to process, record, screen and analyze DNA evidence and to enhance the ability of crime labs to process evidence. The funding helps reduce the number of forensic DNA database samples awaiting analysis, prevents additional DNA backlogs and helps solve crimes.

Complementing these efforts, BJA’s Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program is awarding a total of $26.5 million through the program’s formula ($22.5 million) and competitive ($4 million) solicitations. The awards help states and local governments improve the quality and timeliness of forensic services provided by crime laboratories and medical examiner and coroners’ offices. Funding will go toward eliminating backlogs and employing and training laboratory personnel and death investigators.

Nearly $5 million in BJA funding is being provided through the Prosecuting Cold Cases using DNA and other Forensic Technologies Program. This program funds the prosecuting violent crime cold cases to decrease the number of violent crime cold cases awaiting prosecution where DNA from a suspect has been identified.

Through BJA’s Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Program, more than $6 million is being provided to help defray costs associated with identifying and reviewing post-conviction DNA cases to help overturn wrongful convictions.

Through BJA’s the Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System Program, 15 awards totaling nearly $2 million to help medical examiners conduct and improve the quality of forensic death investigations.

In addition, BJA is awarding $43.4 million through the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative and more than $2 million Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence ‒ Inventory, Tracking and Reporting Program.  The funding supports the documentation of unanalyzed sexual assault kits, and the efficient processing, investigation and prosecution of sexual assault kits as well as victim advocacy to support effective resolution of sexual assault cases ‒ steps that are effective in reducing violent crime. For more on these programs’ 2020 funding, click here.

NIJ is providing more than $4.2 million to fund the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedents. The University of North Texas Health Science Center will use the grant to support daily operations of NamUs, along with enhancements and software upgrades to the system.

NIJ is making $16.4 million available to support research, development and evaluation projects designed to deliver accurate, cost-effective and rapid methods for identifying, analyzing and interpreting physical evidence. An additional $3.6 million will support the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence and the National Center on Forensics. Under its Graduate Research Fellowship program, NIJ is also renewing its commitment to developing new researchers who are engaged in bringing science to criminal justice issues.

For a complete list of individual grant programs, amounts, and the jurisdictions that will receive funding, click here.

Additional information about Fiscal Year 2020 grant awards made by the Office of Justice Programs can be found online at the OJP Awards Data webpage.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com