AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) program recently passed a new milestone, the 10,000th offender cold hit, which are unexpected DNA matches that help solve open cases. Since 1998, the DPS CODIS Lab has helped solve 644 homicides, 3,399 sexual assaults, 4,273 burglaries, 556 robberies and hundreds of other miscellaneous crimes in Texas and other states.
CODIS is a nationwide FBI database used to match DNA of known criminal offenders with biological evidence from crime scenes. DPS is the program administrator for CODIS in Texas and processes the DNA of certain offenders as authorized by law. The DNA profiles are then added to the database where they are cross-referenced with crime scene DNA evidence.
“It would be difficult to overstate the impact of CODIS in law enforcement. Along with advancements in DNA technology, it has revolutionized crime fighting, helping solve countless crimes and providing invaluable assistance to our law enforcement partners,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Many of these crimes may never have been solved if not for this database. In addition, CODIS can actually vindicate or exclude a suspect in a case, which is another valuable tool for investigators.”
The Texas CODIS database was established by the Texas Legislature in 1996. Since that time, the DPS CODIS Lab has analyzed and uploaded more than 660,000 offender DNA samples into the Texas portion of CODIS, which is linked to the national database. That growing number of offenders in the database explains the rapid growth in Texas CODIS cold hits. It took 11 years to reach 1,000 cold hits, but only five more to reach 10,000. The CODIS Lab at DPS headquarters in Austin also serves as the primary point of entry for local law enforcement into the Texas and national CODIS databases.
Of the 10,027 cold hits, approximately 50 percent of the suspects were not incarcerated at the time CODIS linked them to a crime, which is sometimes more serious than the original offense that required them to provide a DNA sample.
Texas law now requires all registered sex offenders, and any convicted felons sentenced to Texas Department of Criminal Justice or juveniles committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities to provide a DNA sample. In addition, felons placed on community supervision must provide DNA, as well as certain qualifying arrestees.
About 60 percent of the DNA evidence that links suspects to crimes through the Texas portion of CODIS is processed by eight regional DPS crime labs. The remainder are processed at police department crime labs in Austin and Houston; the University of North Texas Health Science Center; and the county medical examiner labs in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
CODIS can also tie multiple crimes together, which happened in the recent Twilight Rapist case. As a repository for case evidence profiles, the database linked multiple sexual assaults of elderly women in central Texas to one suspect, confirming law enforcement suspicions they were dealing with a serial rapist. When a man was arrested in January 2011 while committing a crime, his DNA profile quickly confirmed to investigators they had captured their serial rapist suspect.