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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE, PART 2
FBI DNA Database Passes an Important Milestone

02/03/04

CODIS Combined DNA Index SystemYesterday, we talked about how DNA complements crime-fighting in new and powerful ways, thanks largely to an FBI computer database called CODIS.

Now, the rest of the story -- more on how CODIS works and what it has accomplished.

How is CODIS set up? CODIS is a three-tiered system -- with separate local, state, and national databases. That way, local and state labs can maintain DNA databases according to their own laws and needs, but still search for matches at the national level. The national tier is called the National DNA Index System, or NDIS, and it is maintained by the FBI.

Where do the DNA profiles in NDIS come from? The overwhelming majority -- more than 1.5 million -- come from convicted felons. Depending on the state, the felons include those serving time for rape, murder, crimes against children, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and assault and battery. NDIS also includes more than 78,000 DNA samples collected from crime scenes, more than 100 from missing persons and another 300 from relatives of missing persons, and some 150 from unidentified human remains. DNA samples from suspected terrorists are also collected today, but not uploaded to NDIS. When you add it all up, there are more than 1.6 million DNA profiles in the national system.

Who uses CODIS? A total of 175 crime labs in all 50 states and Puerto Rico ... as well as the FBI Lab and the U.S. Army Crime Lab. And, in a sign of how effective the system is, 31 labs in 18 nations worldwide also use CODIS, but they are not connected to any DNA databases here in the U.S. They simply borrow the FBI's technology to help investigations in their own countries, much as we do here.

How is success measured? Mainly by keeping tabs on the number of investigations helped by CODIS through a hit or match that wouldn't have otherwise been developed. In December, that total passed the 10,000 threshold for the first time (it currently stands at 10,770). We also measure "forensic hits" -- when two or more DNA samples from a crime scene are linked in local, state, or national databases -- and "offender hits" -- when one or more DNA profiles from a crime scene are linked to a convicted felon. Since 1998, there have been over 3,000 forensic hits and over 7,000 offender hits.

Success stories? There are plenty. Check three of them out below.

Thanks to CODIS, the building blocks of life are often foundations of law enforcement investigations. Science and technology ... truly making a difference in fighting crime.

Related links: CODIS website; success stories.