- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) The number of "cold hits" from Virginia's DNA database this year exceeds 300, a milestone that more than doubles the total number since the program started a dozen years ago as the first of its kind in the nation.

A cold hit happens when DNA found at a crime scene is matched by computer with DNA profiles taken from Virginia felons and stored in the database.

It also occurs when DNA from one case is matched with DNA from another case, indicating the same perpetrator might be responsible for both crimes.

Of the 301 cases matched as of Wednesday, 278 identified the person whose DNA was being tested, and 23 matched one crime scene with another, said Paul B. Ferrara, director of the state's Division of Forensic Science.

Virginia's DNA database program, which costs roughly $6 million a year to operate, began in 1989. It is the oldest and largest in the nation.

According to the FBI, as of October, there have been 1,824 cold hits in 30 states since the first hits were made.

The 301 cold hits in Virginia bring the total to 584 over the life of the program. Last year, there were 178 hits; the year before, 74; and in 1998, just five. The first hit came in 1993.

The number of hits has climbed as the state's database grows. As of last month, the database held DNA profiles of 165,000 felons.

At the same time, Mr. Ferrara's laboratories have been able to eliminate one in every four suspects police believed might have committed a crime.

The state collects about 20,000 new samples a year. Under the program, blood samples are taken from felons, and their DNA profiles are analyzed and entered into a computer.

The 301 cold hits this year involved 153 property crimes, 42 homicides, 65 rapes, two rape-homicides and several dozen other crimes, Mr. Ferrara said.

Sex offenders are not the only ones who leave DNA at a crime scene. Other criminals such as burglars also leave much to be tested.

One thief left his shoes at the scene because he stole another pair. Swabbing the shoes turned up DNA that led to his identity, Mr. Ferrara said. In another case, a thief urinated while waiting outside the house he was about to burglarize.

Chewing gum, cigarette butts and other items also can be used for DNA testing.

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