DNA technology available at Utah State Crime lab changing how we look at forensic evidence

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TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4 News) – It’s National Forensic Science Week and the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) is highlighting DNA technology available at the Utah State Crime Lab. 

DPS held a special event showing a close up look at forensic DNA testing in Utah along with the advanced technology available at our state crime lab. 

The Utah Bureau of Forensic Services Laboratory System, otherwise known as the State Crime Lab, was created by the Legislature to provide timely and comprehensive criminalistic services to criminal justice entities within the State of Utah.

By law, the lab must analyze evidence from crime scenes and crime-related incidents for criminal prosecution and provide criminalistics laboratory services to federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys, agencies, and public defenders. 

The lab has been in operation since 1996. DPS lab director Jay Henry discussed how DNA is processed and the future of those capabilities.  He says since the labs beginning stages it has utilized all of its resources in assisting in all types of investigations.

Henry says they held Wednesday’s event to showcase new programs DPS is utilizing. 

The property crimes DNA testing at the lab has been revamped.

“What a property crime is is somebody breaks into a house, cuts themselves, leaves blood behind or leaves a cigarette butt…we’re able to take that evidence process it, develop a profile, put it into the date base, which is critical,” Henry says. “Studies have shown is that when you do that, suspects are twice as likely to be identified and twice as likely to be prosecuted.”

There is always DNA involved when investigating a crime, Henry says.  The technology and equipment at the lab are all state-of-the-art. 

“If I go back 30 years there was a time when we would do testing and about all, we could really tell was is the substance blood, and whether or not there was an ABO blood type,” Henry says. 

He adds “That’s what we had, so that’s what we worked with.” With technology advancement, the lab can now narrow it down to the exact probability of it being a certain individual at random. 

With the technological growth over the past several years, the processing time for DNA has also drastically lessened. 

“Having the ability to tackle the urgent cases with a lot more speed so that with the resources we have, the equipment we have we can, ya know turn out an urgent case in ya know eight hours,” Henry says.

The lab is working to get a point where the normal turn around time for crime dependent DNA cases that used to take up to 100 days to process will now be done in around 30. 

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