FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER HIRSCH CUT RIBBON AT LARGEST GOVERNMENT DNA LABORATORY IN THE COUNTRY
City’s New Crime Lab – Under Construction Since November 2001 – Can Handle More than 20,000 Criminal Cases A Year, Up From Current Caseload of 3,000 Cases
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Hirsch today presided over the opening grand opening of the new state-of-art Forensic Biology Laboratory of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, which is the largest government DNA laboratory in the country. Construction of the lab began under Mayor Giuliani in November 2001 and already performs more DNA testing than any other public laboratory in the nation, including the FBI DNA laboratory. Among its many features, the lab includes facilities to reconstruct crimes and analyze bone and other biological material that do not produce standard DNA samples. The Mayor and Dr. Hirsch were joined at the East 26th Street lab by the Deputy Mayor for Administration Ed Skyler, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, the Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt, and Laboratory Director Dr. Mecki Prinz.
"This new DNA lab will now give us the capability to analyze DNA not just from murders and sexual assaults, but from a broad range of criminal investigations including property thefts," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The facility isn't only going to work on identifying the guilty; it will also be used to clear the innocent. And it won't just be used for criminal investigations, because scientists here will be able to work on missing persons cases to bring precious closure to more families."
"The challenge confronting our scientists is to deliver on the promise of this new building and to utilize this wonderful facility to its fullest extent, in the interest of science serving justice," said Dr. Hirsch. "My colleagues and I accept that challenge as a sacred obligation, and I am confident that we will reward the trust placed in us by the criminal justice system and by Mayor Bloomberg and his Administration."
"Perhaps more than any other city agency, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the Police Department's partner in crime-solving. This new facility will only help to advance the speed and success of our investigations. The use of DNA in bringing criminals to justice has evolved into a critical tool for police-one that has been popularized on a television series watched by millions. But the fact is evidence collection and analysis is difficult, painstaking, often tedious work. It demands highly trained experts and the best equipment. We will see both on display in this new facility," said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.
"The impact of DNA evidence on the criminal justice system has been nothing short of revolutionary," said Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt. "This new facility will vastly increase our City's ability to solve crimes and to bring this increasingly important and often incontrovertible evidence into the courtroom."
The Forensic Biology Lab currently performs more DNA testing than any other public laboratory in the nation, including the national FBI DNA laboratory, and has been recognized by the FBI as contributing the highest number of searchable DNA profiles to the national DNA database. Current DNA testing is limited to homicide cases, sexual assaults and other selected cases. The continued growth of DNA testing as an investigative forensic tool came along with the ability to test evidence from an increasing number of crime types. The new lab will enable investigators to perform extensive DNA analysis and to apply enhanced techniques to solving these types of cases. The addition of assault cases and property crimes, as well as other crime types, is projected to increase the forensic biology case load from 3,000 a year to approximately 25,000 per year.
"DNA testing forever changed Forensic Science and we are proud to be part of it. This new building will enable us to do more and better work for the citizens of New York," said Laboratory Director, Dr. Mecki Prinz.
The $290 million, 340,000 square-foot facility was designed by Perkins Eastman, and contains 75,000 square feet of laboratory space and has a fully equipped training laboratory and classroom along with research and development laboratories. The building, which City employees began to occupy in February, houses members of the following departments: Forensic Biology, Evidence and Security, Legal, OCME Administration, and Information Technology.
Other teams working in the new facility include the Missing Persons group, which is responsible for DNA testing and kinship analysis in identification cases, as well as DNA typing of unidentified remains, personal references, and family comparison samples for the FBI Missing Person's database. By allowing for the comparison of reference samples with unidentified remains, this database has provided closure to many families with missing relatives. The World Trade Center group also housed in the facility, will continue to aid in the identification of victims from the World Trade Center disaster.
In addition to performing both standard DNA testing, the new lab will support the use of advanced DNA testing techniques, such as STR (Short Tandem Repeat) typing, low copy number analysis for very small amounts of DNA, and a mitochondrial lab for analysis of hair evidence and other biological material that do not produce standard DNA samples. The facility's Molecular Genetics group supports the forensic pathologists in the determination of the cause of death in cases of non-violent, natural but sudden death. The department also has a Forensic Analysis and Reconstruction Unit (FARU) that performs crime scene reconstruction.
The OCME is a participant in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Since 2000, more than 1,200 case-to-case matches and over 2,100 offender matches nationwide have been made. Many of these were for "cold" cases which had no suspect and little chance of being otherwise solved. The New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner has over 12,000 different DNA profiles in its casework database, which will be handled by more than 400 Forensic Biology employees, including scientists, management, and support staff.
The Kips Bay EMS Station, Battalion 8, will also occupy 6,100 square feet in the new building. The space, which will hold six ambulances, supply storage, as well as a decontamination bay and shower facilities, brings the total number of EMS stations citywide to 32, including 16 added by the FDNY since the 1996 merger, and 9 since the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg's Administration. Approximately 100 emergency service workers will be on staff.
Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker (212) 788-2958
Ellen Borakove (Chief Medical Examiner)
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