Thousands Of Ohio DNA Profiles Missing From Crime Databases

Oct 1, 2018

Thousands of DNA profiles legally required to be collected from adults arrested for felonies or convicted of some misdemeanors in Ohio are missing from state and national crime databases, according to a newspaper network's investigation.

The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette — part of the USA Today Network-Ohio — reports that the missing profiles include those for people accused of rape and other violent offenses in Ohio. Some police agencies and courts are failing to collect the DNA, according to the newspaper, which contacted nearly 180 law enforcement agencies — including sheriff's offices and police departments in every county — out of the more than 800 tasked with collecting DNA in Ohio.

DNA information collected from people convicted of violent crimes and crimes against children as well as other offenses are uploaded to Ohio's DNA system and shared with the FBI database so it can be searched against evidence in unsolved crimes.

The total number of missing DNA profiles is unknown, but the investigation found several widespread collection gaps, the Eagle-Gazette reported. In Cuyahoga County, it was discovered last year that more than 15,000 people were missing from the state DNA database from August 2008 to December 2016.

State law requires police and courts to ensure collection at the time of an arrest or initial court appearance. It also requires prisons to collect DNA if someone was missed earlier upon intake and release from prison. JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) previously contacted the prison system regarding failed collections and they were addressed.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office says it's not bound by public record law to share how many profiles are missing from the state's database. Spokeswoman Jill Del Greco told the newspaper via email that BCI has no authority to ensure DNA is collected, but believes law enforcement is making "a good-faith effort" to comply with the law.

BCI does share tools to help local law enforcement comply with the law. One is the Negative Offender DNA Flag Report, which allows agencies to audit their own DNA collections. It flags people whose DNA wasn't collected or was collected improperly.

Among 26 agencies where a small set of data was collected, there were about 2,900 flags from people arrested or convicted of charges from July 2011 to June 5, 2018, the newspaper reported. The Clinton County Sheriff's Office was the only one of those that said it runs the report monthly and has no flags.

The Eagle-Gazette reports failures to collect DNA often result from factors such as human error and miscommunication.

Many of the contacted police agencies are interested in finding and correcting collection gaps, according to the newspaper. Some have designated a person to run the report weekly or monthly. One has reprimanded officers who routinely fail to collect DNA.

The newspaper reports, however, that the limited records available to the investigating network make it impossible to know how many people owe DNA to the state.