NewsPinellas County


New technology helps Tampa Bay law enforcement analyze DNA in 90 minutes

Posted at 4:37 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 18:51:26-05

LARGO, Fla. -- The National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo just received a new tool to analyze DNA faster.

The RapidHIT ID system from Thermo Fisher Scientific can provide a full DNA profile in 90 minutes, a process that typically takes eight hours and four pieces of lab equipment.

PINELLAS NEWS | The latest headlines from Pinellas County

Ariana Wheaton, with Thermo Fisher Scientific’s market development team, says the equipment goes a long way toward finding DNA matches efficiently.

“It's evolving crime-fighting as we know it,” Wheaton said.

Kevin Lothridge, the Executive Director of the National Forensic Science Technology Center, says it can also be used to solve local crimes.

“We’re known for human trafficking in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties. This could help with the human trafficking problem right on the spot,” Lothridge explained.

How it works:

When investigators bring a suspect into custody, they can take a DNA sample, then put it in the machine. An hour and a half later they have a full DNA profile to match up with the FBI’s database. All before that person is released from police custody.

“That’s what we’re really trying to get out of this is information we can move on right then,” Lothridge added.

NFSTC spent the day Wednesday training 15 Florida law enforcement agencies on the new technology.

Here are the agencies who attended: Boca Raton Police Department, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Sanford Police Department, Pinellas County Forensic Lab, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Orland Police Department, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Clearwater Police Department and Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

The NFSTC will use the new technology to train police departments, educate FIU college students and let local law enforcement test out the equipment before making the $150,000 investment.

Crime scene investigators hope it will go a long way toward keeping our community safe.

“As we say, this is science serving justice,” Dave Sylvester, of the National Forensic Science Technology Center, added.