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No funds, sheriff halts rape DNA tests

June 23, 2009 at 1:12 AM

LOS ANGELES, June 23 (UPI) -- Los Angeles County officials say a shortage of funds has prompted them to suspend a program intended to analyze DNA evidence in thousands of sexual assaults.

Sheriff's Department officials said they expect to be able to revive the testing program for at least a while with federal grant funds anticipated in July and additional funds this fall but for now the department has stopped sending DNA evidence to private crime laboratories, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Sheriff Lee Baca notified the county Board of Supervisors last week the program was suspension at the end of May when funds for the testing ran out.

Baca had said late last year his department would clear a backlog of genetic evidence in more than 4,500 rape and sexual assault cases, the Times reported.

Gail Abarbanel, director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, told the newspaper the resources must be found to have the evidence analyzed.

"There are rapists walking the streets of Los Angeles, who, if they tested evidence that is sitting on shelves, could be taken off," she said.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the sheriff could find funds within his budget for the testing program if he needed to.

"He's got a $2 billion budget," Yaroslavsky said. "If this is his No. 1 priority, he should be able to find resources within his own department."

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