New technology at DPS returns DNA profiles in 2 hours - New York News

New technology at DPS returns DNA profiles in 2 hours

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PHOENIX -

DNA evidence is key in identifying suspects in crimes. Typically, processing DNA evidence can take weeks, sometimes months. But new technology is changing all of that.

And that technology is now in the hands of the DPS Crime Lab. We got an exclusive look inside the lab.

DPS is the only agency to have this machine in all of Arizona -- and there's only a few in the entire country.

The crime lab wants to use it for those time-sensitive cases when every minute counts. This is where criminalists analyze DNA samples from notorious Arizona crime scenes.

"I hear from folks 'CSI does it in 30 minutes' and that's just not really realistic. When you look at the complexity of cases and what we have to do to get a result," says Vince Figarelli, superintendent of DPS Crime Lab.

Analyzing DNA can take weeks, even months, and there's an evidence backlog. But the new machine, tucked away in what looks like a copy machine room, is changing everything. It can return a DNA profile in under two hours.

To see just how it works, the crime lab used the Rapidhit 200 system on me.

"Rub the [cotton swabs] on the side of your cheek pretty vigorously."

The cotton swabs are placed in a cartridge and inserted into the machine. I'm suspect number 2.

"It's going to be useful in situations particularly like a serial sex assault or something like that, where the police start apprehending suspects and need a profile quickly to see if it matches from the sex assault."

Behind me is the crime lab where criminalists analyze DNA the conventional way, using three machines. This new technology puts those three steps into one.

"They can't tell you how tall somebody is, what color their eyes are, they just give you a series of numbers."

After we wait an hour and forty minutes, our results are ready.

These numbers don't mean anything -- they are just a string of results that could be matched to another set of DNA.

A string of numbers only useful, of course, if it's the same string of numbers found at a crime scene.

"You're always leaving your DNA behind wherever you go, and to a certain degree, it's detectable wherever you've been," says Figarelli.

I learned today my DNA is only the third sample to be run through the machine.

DPS is hoping the machine will complete the testing phase by the end of the year and be ready to be used on cases by the beginning of 2014.

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