In March of last year, a Hagerstown man brutally raped a woman, strangled, beat and stabbed her, and doused her in bleach to cover up his crime. Not long ago, crimes as brutal and violent as this too often went unsolved. But in May of this year, law enforcement and prosecutors used DNA evidence to send this violent offender to prison. His conviction is part of our state’s bigger success story in the science and law of DNA.
The O’Malley-Brown Administration has worked tirelessly to ensure that Maryland’s DNA Database operates at peak efficiency — an effort that has helped to drive down violent crime and homicide to three decade lows, keeping Maryland on track to reach the administration’s goal of driving down violent crime by 20 percent by 2018.
Established by law in 1994, Maryland’s promising DNA database made its first positive comparison in 1998. DNA technology transformed criminal investigation by giving law enforcement the tools to identify, arrest, and convict — or to exonerate — quickly and accurately in the wake of violent crime and criminal misconduct of all types.
But when Gov. O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Brown took office in January 2007, the administration inherited a backlog of more than 24,000 untested or uncollected DNA samples. So the governor immediately took action — he invested in the necessary new positions, overtime, and lab equipment to bring the database up-to-date. One year later — and ahead of schedule — we fully eliminated the backlog. Eliminating the backlog was important because a DNA database is only an effective crime-fighting tool if the samples we have are catalogued and available for comparisons.
As of May 2014, there were 112,036 convicted offender samples in the Statewide DNA Database. Since 2007, more than 535 arrests have been made as a result of DNA convicted offender database hits. Since 2002, 13 new trials have been obtained to re-examine the DNA evidence — 12 of these cases involved a conviction for murder or rape.
Additionally, in 2009, Gov. O’Malley created the Maryland DNA Charged Offender Database. Now, those arrested and charged with qualifying violent crimes — first-, second- and third-degree burglaries, or attempts to commit those crimes — must submit a DNA sample. As of May 2014, there were 23,851 DNA samples in this database. Since 2009, the Charged Offender Database has helped make 362 positive DNA comparisons (100 more than this time last year) leading to more than 105 arrests.
Throughout the O’Malley-Brown Administration, Maryland’s DNA-based law-enforcement efforts have continued to improve. As a result, our police officers are identifying and tracking down the perpetrators of some of Maryland’s most heinous crimes at higher rates than ever before. And last month, the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division hit a new milestone — the 3,500th positive DNA match — in a case connected to an open felony under investigation.
In addition to the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s support, the diligent work and cooperation of individuals across the state have contributed to our successes. The Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division, local police and DNA laboratories, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Department of Parole and Probation, sheriff’s offices and detention centers across the state, and Maryland’s district and circuit court systems, have all come together to aggressively and effectively drive down crime.
Today, because Maryland is making full and effective use of modern technology, with an unprecedented, collaborative, common-platforms approach, our response times are faster, convictions are more accurate, criminals have fewer places to hide, and Maryland’s streets are safer than at any other time in recent history.