L.A. cold-case detectives swamped

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “This is an extraordinarily important priority for me,” said Councilman Jack Weiss, who chairs the panel. Weiss, a former federal prosecutor, acknowledged that funding is tight in city government – facing a $270 million shortfall in next year’s budget – but he said the extra cops could save resources by arresting prolific felons who commit numerous crimes. Despite opposition from some civil libertarians, who objected to a requirement for DNA samples upon arrest and not just after conviction, Proposition 69 passed with 62 percent of the vote. By 2009, the measure will require police to take DNA samples from all adults arrested on suspicion of committing felonies, as well as all people convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors. In the meantime, police agencies across the state have begun taking samples from a smaller group of arrestees and convicts. The samples get sent to state analysts who will soon be returning large volumes of data to local police. Last year, 5,000 DNA samples were collected each month in Los Angeles County. Officials expect an average of 6,000 a month this year. When the LAPD matches that information with its own evidence gathered from crime scenes, it could produce promising new leads in more than 350 unsolved cases, mostly sexual assaults and homicides, said Deputy District Attorney Lisa Kahn. “We’re going to have some very serious predators to investigate,” Kahn said. “But the cold hit is basically the starting point. … It’s the beginning of hundreds of hours of investigative work before a case can be filed and prosecuted.” The bulk of that work falls to the LAPD’s 3-year-old Cold Case Homicide Unit, which has six detectives working on about 80 cases. LAPD officials are seeking an immediate increase to 12 detectives and eventually want 18. The other key unit for the unsolved cases, the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division, has problems of its own. The division, which analyzes the crime-scene evidence that gets matched to DNA samples, has 30 employees squeezed into a facility built for nine as they await a new laboratory expected to open next year, said Steven Johnson, head of the division. “They don’t even have their own desks, so it’s a difficult situation,” he said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is the new laboratory.” The LAPD reserves almost all its analysis resources for violent cases, although DNA evidence will be collected in some property crimes in a new pilot program in the San Fernando Valley. One-third of citywide residential burglaries occur in the Valley, according to a city report, so the area was was chosen for the pilot program, funded with a $436,077 federal grant. The Public Safety Committee approved the pilot program while calling for another hearing in several weeks to discuss funding for more cold case detectives. Dan Laidman, (213) 978-0390 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Los Angeles Police Department lacks enough detectives to handle a looming onslaught of DNA evidence that could help identify the culprits in hundreds of unsolved cases a year, officials said Monday. Police said the LAPD might need to triple the number of officers handling cold cases to pursue leads generated by Proposition 69, approved by California voters in 2004 to require that agencies take DNA samples from many suspects, as well as convicted criminals. “There is going to be just an avalanche of ‘hits’ coming down the road, and we need to prepare for that,” said Cmdr. Harlan Ward, head of the LAPD’s Detective Bureau. Members of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee directed the LAPD to work with city administrators to try to find money for the extra detectives. last_img read more