Police departments in Bucks County launch DNA database

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     A forensic scientist extracts DNA from samples. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

    A forensic scientist extracts DNA from samples. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

    Advocates say the new database will help police solve cases faster and catch criminals before they commit crimes in other municipalities.

    When Pennsylvania police try to solve a crime using DNA evidence, they have to wait for results from a state database. That can take between nine and 18 months, says Fred Harran, director of public safety for the Bensalem Township Police Department and vice president of the Bucks County Police Chiefs Association.

    To speed things up, the 40 police departments in Bucks County have banded together to create a county-wide DNA database that provides results within 30 days.

    The new database will help police solve cases faster and catch criminals before they commit crimes in other municipalities, Harran says. 

    He says the database has already helped police solve cross-county crimes since the police departments rolled it out  in June. “Individuals were arrested in one municipality, committed crimes in another, and there was nothing linking them together except for the DNA left at the scene of the crime,” Harran said. 

    Better access to DNA evidence can also help police clear suspects who are innocent, Harran says.

    Suspects give DNA samples voluntarily and are informed they’ll be used for a criminal investigation, Harran says. The municipalities and the county are paying $600,000 a year for the system. 

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