SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —The Illinois State Police’s backlog of DNA processing in murder cases was the subject of a hearing in Springfield on Tuesday.
7,700 DNA kits still need to be tested.
“We know that there’s a lot of DNA not being analyzed and as a result, we walk among murders,” Sen Patricia Van Pelt said.
For years, the state of Illinois has been trying to make a dent in its DNA testing. A backlog of seven months at least for results was normal.
Years of budget cuts and crises put the state police testing lab in a difficult position. Since Governor JB Pritzker formed a task force to look into it, the numbers are improving. The backlog is down 16%.
“The increase in completion rates finally outpaces the number of assignments being created,” Illinois State Police director Brendan Kelly said.
The state lab has about 269 forensic scientists on staff but needs 320 to make sure each kit is tested in a timely manner. A little more than a year ago there were 70 open homicide cases in Chicago. In December there were 14 that had sat untested for a year. Now there are two cases still open and four getting ready to be tested.
The goal is to have DNA results six months after coming into the lab.
“That’s the constant struggle, the constant battle, the number coming in vs the number that’s being completed,” Kelly said.
Violent crimes move to the top of the priority list.
Families of victims still waiting for test results for unsolved murders said they want a seat at the table on the governor’s task force on forensic science. They have been lobbying for change for nearly two years.
Van Pelt said she will talk with the governor about getting at least one community member on the task force.
The first meeting is in late February. This task force is expected to publish a report by this summer.