The Texas Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) Lab set records last year for the number of DNA cold hits in one year and in the process, Texas passed a huge milestone -- recording the 1,000th in-state cold hit.
"Cold hits" are unexpected DNA matches that crack unsolved cases or link multiple unsolved crimes. In fact, these Texas cases, including homicides and sexual assaults, may never have been solved if it were not for CODIS.
The number of cases solved by the Texas CODIS program is impressive: 113 homicides, 536 sexual assaults, 410 burglaries and 61 robberies. There were also a wide variety of other matches, including assaults, threats, auto theft, theft and hit and runs. Some cases cleared wrongly convicted persons.
CODIS is a nationwide FBI database used to match DNA of known criminal offenders with biological evidence from crime scenes -- or match evidence from different crime scenes. The CODIS Lab in Austin analyzes DNA criminal-offender samples and downloads the information into the database. The DPS CODIS Lab also serves as the primary point-of-entry for state law enforcement into the Texas and national CODIS databases.
"CODIS and advances in DNA technology have helped revolutionize crime-fighting by targeting known offenders and linking additional criminal cases against them -- often more serious than the original crimes for which they were convicted," said DPS Director Col. Thomas A. Davis Jr. "Many of the offenders were not incarcerated or were about to be released when the database matches took place."
As the number of offender profiles uploaded into the Texas portion of CODIS has increased, so has the number of crimes that have been solved. There are currently 282,000 offender records in the Texas CODIS database. Last year, a record number of criminal profiles (50,694) were analyzed and added to the database, increasing the likelihood of solved crimes. There were also a record 347 in-state cold hits involving Texas offenders.
All convicted felons sentenced to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, juveniles committed to the Texas Youth Commission and all registered sex offenders must provide a DNA sample. Crime scene DNA evidence is then processed by DPS or other labs and submitted to the database for possible matches.
The Texas CODIS database was established by the Texas Legislature in 1996. The first cold hit was recorded in 1998, and the number of crimes solved has been increasing ever since.