- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — Virginia’s first-in-the-nation DNA databank is undergoing a review to determine how many felons have not registered.

The review was sparked by a Charlottesville police detective’s discovery that many felons were not registered in the databank, which has been used to convict thousands of killers, rapists and other offenders.

Officials estimate that thousands of felons have not registered, and the number could be higher.

“We want to find out how much of a problem exists and then figure out what do to based on what we find,” Clyde Cristman, state deputy secretary of public safety, said Thursday. “We want to find where things are being missed, then identify why and immediately try to collect the samples.”

Mr. Cristman’s department, the state police and the departments of forensic science and the juvenile justice system are working together on the review, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday.

The examination could take two months.

Capt. J.E. “Chip” Harding of the Charlottesville Police Department was tipped to the problem during his investigation of a suspected serial rapist. He shared his findings with other law-enforcement officials.

The databank, the nation’s most extensive, has approximately 260,000 DNA samples.

Police use the database as an investigative tool. Genetic evidence taken from a crime scene is compared with DNA samples in the database.

If there is a match, known as a cold hit, authorities can use the lead to help solve rapes, murders and other crimes.

Capt. Harding said he thinks it’s possible, based on the Charlottesville-area sampling, that as much as 20 percent or about 50,000 samples, could be missing from the database.

“Some of them would be seriously violent predators,” he said of the felons who have not registered.

Capt. Harding successfully lobbied with the help of crime victims to fund the DNA databank in 1997.

Mr. Cristman said the law is not clear on who is responsible for the samples being taken.

“We need some clarification with that procedure,” he said.

Paul Ferrara, the head of the state’s Department of Forensic Science, said there have been about 3,600 cold hits since the databank was started in 1989 and was the first in the nation.

Local jails or probation offices often are charged with taking the samples.

Until 2001, blood samples were taken for DNA. Since then, DNA has been obtained by swabbing the inside of a felon’s cheek.

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