(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today provided updates regarding multiple initiatives within the Attorney General's Office:
Sexual Assault Kit Testing: New Scientists
Attorney General DeWine is creating six new forensic scientist positions at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) in an effort to increase the rate at which kits submitted as part of the Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative are tested for DNA.
In December 2011, Attorney General DeWine requested that law enforcement agencies with untested rape kits send them to BCI for free evidence testing. Four additional forensic scientist positions were created to enhance BCI's focus on the old kits.
Since then, law enforcement agencies have submitted 3,446 kits, some dating back more than 20 years. In October 2012, the newly hired forensic scientists were trained and BCI fully implemented its SAK testing processes. As of August 25, 2013, scientists have tested 1,436 kits, resulting in 439 DNA hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
BCI has also developed a streamlined DNA testing process that will decrease the amount of time previously needed to test each kit.
"Speeding up this testing process is something that has to be done," said DeWine. "The sooner we get these kits tested, the fewer opportunities these predators have to commit additional crimes. These criminals have already been on the streets way too long, and we owe it to the victims to do everything we can to help."
The Cleveland Police Department has submitted the largest number of kits, followed by the Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo police departments. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office has received dozens of indictments as a direct result of the initiative.
Synthetic Drugs: New Legislative Efforts
Attorney General DeWine announced today that his office is now working on new, long-term legislation to combat the ongoing emergence of new synthetic drugs.
"Our scientists who test the synthetic drugs submitted to BCI's crime lab are seeing much less of the substances already banned under House Bills 64 and 334, but brand new chemicals are being uncovered," said DeWine.
In June, Attorney General DeWine and the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy announced that they were partnering to expedite the process of banning the new chemicals. The first round of bans through the partnership is expected to happen as early as October.
In an effort to further speed up the process of banning chemicals as soon as they are found to be a risk to the public, the Attorney General's Office is also now working on new legislation that will request that the state be able to immediately ban these chemicals once they are deemed dangerous. The drafting of the legislation is still in its early stages and would include a public hearing process following a chemical's emergency ban.
Since the beginning of 2013, Attorney General DeWine has filed 14 civil lawsuits, including nine nuisance abatement actions, against businesses and individuals in Ohio accused of selling synthetic drugs.
Additional strides in the fight against synthetic drugs include BCI investigatory assistance in more than a dozen synthetic drug investigations and assistance from the Attorney General's Special Prosecutions Unit in more than 20 synthetic drug prosecutions.
Methamphetamine: Labs Increase
Attorney General DeWine announced today that recent analysis of the number of methamphetamine labs found in the state has spiked to 770 cases.
"This is the largest number of labs that our local and state law enforcement officers have responded to in a single year since BCI started keeping statistics in 2005," said DeWine.
Methamphetamine labs are tallied based on the October - September fiscal year and reflect only the meth lab cases reported to BCI.
The yearly totals are as follows:
• 2005: 444
• 2006: 243
• 2007: 177
• 2008: 112
• 2009: 348
• 2010: 359
• 2011: 375
• 2012: 607
• 2013: 770 as of August 24, 2013
"We believe that there are several reasons for the increase, one being that Ohio's law enforcement officers are aggressively seeking out these labs and finding them," said DeWine. "Unfortunately, however, there are more labs out there to find. We estimate that approximately 95% of the methamphetamine labs found today are the so-called 'one-pot' labs."
A "one-pot" lab can be created by using a mixture of chemicals in a soda or sports drink bottle. These labs are less complicated and cheaper than the in-home labs that law enforcement typically found several years ago.
BCI agents regularly train law enforcement officers on the procedures to dismantle a meth lab. Agents have also taught dozens of community courses on how to identify the signs of a meth lab.
Criminal Identification: New Tool for Law Enforcement
Attorney General DeWine announced today that a new tool for law enforcement to aid in criminal identification is now available through the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG).
Development of the new facial recognition technology began in 2010 and became accessible to law enforcement in June 2013.
"When a wanted offender is identified quickly, it can prevent additional crimes and even save lives, and that is what this new technology aims to do," said Attorney General DeWine. "It will give law enforcement the ability quickly compare a photograph of a suspect or crime victim against the photo records that they already have access to, such as mug shots and Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle photos," said Attorney General DeWine.
The facial recognition program can aid in several types of investigations to:
• Help identify criminals from surveillance footage
• Help identify unidentified homicide victims
• Help identify suspects who refuse to provide their identity
• Help identify Alzheimer's, dementia, or amnesia sufferers
• Help identify human trafficking victims being forced to pose for photos online
"The photo comparison technology is not as exact as fingerprint and DNA technology; It is simply the automation of a search capability that has been in place for years," said DeWine. "This tool will help law enforcement do the work they are already doing, only faster."
Facial recognition technology works by using facial measurements and is currently used in dozens of other states.
Since June, law enforcement agencies in Ohio have used the program 2,677 times. An advisory group is currently being formed to review the system's usage and suggest additional policies to prevent misuse. The misuse of OHLEG is a felony offense.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Jill Del Greco: 614-466-3840