Tierrasanta crime victim told 'no funding for DNA tests'

Backlog could stall some criminal cases for months

SAN DIEGO - Car burglars hit Suzette Trantham's Tierrasanta home twice. The first time, they broke into her son's car. Then, the thieves came back for hers. 

"They had rampaged through it, took what they needed, left what they didn't want, broke things that were in the way," explained Trantham, who found her gutted car about a mile from her home. 

The damage is costing her a few thousand dollars, but she says it's what police told her that is adding insult to injury. 

"They took a DNA swab of the steering wheel and the steering column and then told us they weren't going to be able to do anything with it or process it because of funding," said Trantham. "I asked how much it would be, you know, can I pay for it? And [the officer] said it doesn't work like that, you're going to have to take it up with the district attorney."

San Diego police tell 10News they have enough money to test DNA evidence but they admit for less serious crimes to be processed, there is a wait.

Jennifer Shen, the department's crime lab manager, says there is currently a backlog of 300 to 400 cases. Ten percent of them involve car thefts.

The backlog of DNA evidence is not a problem specific to San Diego. It is happening nationwide. Some criminal cases filed with SDPD, however, could be stalled longer than others.

"To have a backlog like this is that there are a number of people who should be in front of a court, who should be serving their time, and they are just not doing it," said Alex Simpson, the legal director of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law.

Police said testing is still a top priority for more serious crimes, like murders and rapes.

However, Shen says property crimes, like Trantham's case, could take three to four months.

"I'm not the only one. My neighbor's vehicle was broken into, too, and a couple others that happened on the same night," Trantham said. "So it's pretty crappy… it's pretty crappy."

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