The Los Angeles Police Department is facing a backlog of 2,200 unanalyzed fingerprints in various property crime cases because of a budget-cutting hiring freeze and employee furloughs put in place in 2009.
According to the Los Angeles Times
, detectives are now waiting up to three months for lab results and, in some cases, more than a year. Most of the investigations involve burglaries, auto thefts, and other property crimes.
“The longer you leave these criminals out on the street, they’re likely going to be committing more crimes. And, if you do get a match on prints months later, it can be much harder to prove your case,” LAPD Central Division Detective Michael Brausam told the Times.
“In a perfect world, we’d get results back in a day or two.”
The city’s police department is down at least 27 technicians from its normal staff of 97. Despite being understaffed, sexual assault, murder, and other violent crimes are still being prioritized and fingerprints in those cases are processed promptly, the Times noted.
But officials are also trying to clear backlogged property cases by initiating a plan to allow each of the city’s 21 divisions to identify 10 priority cases a month that will get moved to the top of the pile for processing. In addition to their other duties, some officers are also being trained to collect prints from crime scenes so that more technicians can remain in the lab working on the backlog.
Yvette Burney, commanding officer of LAPD’s crime labs, told the times that fingerprint backlogs exist across the nation along with a backlog as well in DNA processing. In 2008, the LAPD raised millions in private donations to help clear out its DNA case backup by using private labs to help with processing.
But Burney said the same kind of effort wouldn’t be applied to help clear the fingerprint logjam in property crime cases.
“It’s not as sexy as DNA . . . But it’s no less important,” she said. “We could solve a lot of crimes if we had more people.”
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