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2015 News

Commissioners Join Bucks County Police Chief’s Association to Announce First Countywide DNA Database in the U.S.

October 7, 2015

In Courtroom 440 of the new Bucks County Justice Center – where many criminals will be prosecuted during ensuing decades – the Bucks County Police Chief’s Association joined Bucks County Commissioners Robert G. Loughery, Charles H. Martin and Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Assistant District Attorney Matt Weintraub to launch a new countywide initiative in the field of DNA testing. In conjunction with Bode Cellmark Forensics of Lorton, VA, this program is known as “BodeHITS.” It will be the first program of its kind in the country – bringing together all 40 Bucks County municipal police departments to use the latest forensic technology to fight crime.

The media event was moderated by Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran, whose department launched DNA testing as a crime prevention and prosecution tool back in 2010. Since that time, Bensalem has completed more than 400 cases using the Q-Tip swap kits. The program, which is partially funded by a $221,105 grant application through the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County, allows for a multi-jurisdictional approach to fighting crime and arresting criminals as quickly as possible. More significantly, this approach prevents crime from happening and thereby spares tomorrow’s potential victim from the pain associated with crime.

“Justice without commitment is just talk,” Assistant DA Weintraub told a room filled with reporters and cameras. Mr. Weintraub noted that the DNA project fights crime not “with a gun or a taser, but with a Q-Tip.” He held aloft a cotton swab from one of the DNA kits to illustrate his point.

Police know that criminals often cross jurisdictional lines. This collaborative effort will allow police from multiple jurisdictions to work on cases collectively, submit forensic evidence to the lab and the technology will link crime scene evidence from multiple jurisdictions together and also identify the criminals who committed these crimes.

“It’s very easy to support from a County standpoint,” Commissioner Martin said. “Fred Harran came to us some months ago and said we might want to consider this plan. It’s really rewarding in that Fred went out and talked with all the other chiefs, leading to today.”

Director Harran chronicled cases where the technology has been successful, both in identifying criminals and determining those who are not guilty. During May, 2015, Bensalem Township Police responded to a residential burglary where the actor had entered a home by breaking a window, cutting himself upon entry. Officer on scene swabbed blood found on the living room floor. Through DNA investigation, a suspect was identified. One day later, Buckingham Township Police responded to a residential burglary in their jurisdiction. It was discovered that the actor made entry through a window. Officers swabbed the scene for DNA. During August, the Bode Cellmark Forensic report showed a hit/match between the known DNA references at both locations.

The Bensalem Township Police Department has its own local DNA database with over 13,000 DNA profiles, consisting of evidence and reference/individual samples. Many of the 400 criminal investigations Bensalem has processed were property crimes where DNA testing was traditionally not feasible.

Having a local database has guaranteed DNA analysis and results within a 30-day period – as opposed to the 9-18 month time frame that the state lab previously required. This turnaround time has led to the ability to investigate crimes much more efficiently. Bode Cellmark Forensics currently maintains and analyzes all of the shared DNA profiles. Since the multi-jurisdictional launch, there have been nearly 600 DNA profiles added to the database. Participation in the program is voluntary for those who are asked to provide DNA.