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GBI's DNA database hits milestone

DECATUR - The DNA Database at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab or CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) has reached more than 1,500 hits to unsolved cases. The total number of hits is now 1,511.

According to a press release from Public Information Officer John Bankhead, last August, the DNA database had its 1,000th hit after 10 years of operation.

"It has taken only 11 months for 500 additional hits to reach the 1,500 milestone," Bankhead said in the printed statement.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan stated, "The value of the GBI's DNA database in assisting law enforcement in solving violent crimes that otherwise may have gone unsolved is shown by the increasing numbers of DNA links of convicted offenders to cold cases over the past year. We expect and hope that trend will continue."

The GBI began DNA testing in 1991 and implemented CODIS in 1998. At that time under state law, only those convicted and incarcerated for sex offenses were included in the database. For the next two years, the database helped solve 13 rapes and other sexual crimes by linking evidence to an incarcerated sex offender.

The current success of the program stemmed from the expansion of the offender law by the Georgia Legislature in 2000 to include all incarcerated convicted felons. In the first year after expansion, more than 70 cases were solved. Since 2000, though the majority of DNA hits were for rape cases, the primary crimes these offenders were incarcerated for are drug-, burglary- or robbery-related.

Then in 2007, the Legislature expanded the DNA database statute to include certain felony probationers. There have been 77 DNA hits to probationers.

The GBI DNA database contains 187,887 samples. Of that total, 179,569 are offender samples and 8,312 are forensic or evidence samples.