MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin law-enforcement officials are tracking a new technology that might allow investigators to perform a DNA analysis in as little as 90 minutes.
The technology is still in the testing stages, but Wisconsin officials say the early indications are promising, Post-Crescent Media reported (http://post.cr/12lUwxf ).
"There's some powerful stuff that's going on out there," said Brian O'Keefe, administrator of law enforcement services for the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
DNA testing in a lab setting can take several days or longer, depending on the urgency of the case. But the new test, called Rapid DNA, would be mobile, allowing investigators to do testing right at the scene. For example, if a criminal commits a sexual assault, police might be able to find a match in a DNA data base and launch an intensive search for a known suspect, O'Keefe said.
"We could start pulling all of our resources into going after the bad guy and get them (in custody) before they assault anyone else," O'Keefe said.
The state is waiting for the U.S. Department of Justice to decide whether to approve of the technology before it can be used in Wisconsin.
A Rapid DNA unit could cost as much as $250,000, but O'Keefe predicted the price would drop as the technology becomes more widely available.
One of the agencies testing Rapid DNA is the police department in Palm Bay, Fla., a city of about 106,000 residents. Chief Doug Muldoon said the department has partnered with IntegenX Inc., the company that created the portable mini-laboratory that can test blood and biological samples.
Muldoon said his department received the unit late last year and is still experimenting with it.
"It's still being tested," he said. "I think it has a ton of potential, but it will take time."
In Wisconsin, authorities will soon have access to a broader DNA database. Last week, state lawmakers approved a law requiring the collection of a DNA sample from anyone arrested suspicion of having committed a felony. Previously, DNA collection was limited to convicted felons and sex offenders.