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Best Practices for Handling “Cold Hits”


a shelf of case files.

The use of DNA evidence in the investigation and prosecution of crime is increasing. As DNA databases expand, “cold hits” will also increase1, and the capacity of law enforcement agencies to respond to cold hits is often overlooked. It is imperative that organizations establish policies and procedures to ensure a seamless response to cold hits by the investigating law enforcement agency and the crime laboratory.2,3 Systems for streamlining notification and tracking responses to cold hits must be developed and maintained.

There are a number of pitfalls associated with an agency’s failure to establish a protocol for responding to cold hits, including further victimization and jeopardizing limited funding to laboratories.4

1 Traditional statistics for tracking cold hits are “cold hits” themselves and investigations aided. For example, Maryland tracks this information »
2 DPS Chaparral (August 2010) CODIS program reaches 5,000 cold hits. PDF download: 1.8MB • Visit the DPA Chaparral archive »
3 Massachusetts DNA Database Metric for 2008 PDF download: 2.3MB • Visit the Commonwealth of Massachusetts »
4 Terrence Newsome, M.S., Kirby Everhart, M.P.A.A, A Process Evaluation of the California DNA Cold Hit Program (2003) PDF download: 76kB • Visit the California Emergency Management Agency »

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