Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office hopes to solve more crimes with rapid DNA technology

By:  Fallon FIscher

The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office will be receiving a US Government Appropriation for $350,000 to intensify their Rapid DNA Machine, which in turn, will help them solve crimes, according to Sheriff Kim Stewart.

"One of the values of that is that DNA that can be collected at crime scenes now can be processed within 90 minutes. So this little machine that's not much bigger than a microwave oven, can take in DNA samples of unknown perpetrators. It can be compared with other databases, both statewide and nationally," said Stewart.

Stewart said the money from the federal government will help with the operation of the machine and will allow them to run more DNA swabs related to various crimes, not just high-level crimes like homicide, rape and aggravated assaults.

Now it could be used for far greater types of crime like car thefts, burglaries, all sorts of those things which are happening, thankfully, more than homicide," Stewart said. "I think with this were going to be able to make some larger cases. So instead of just getting someone for stealing one car, we can get them for stealing ten.

The sheriff said that they will also be able to process DNA they have already collected from previous crimes to see if they get a match on any suspects.

If there is a hit on the DNA then the sheriff's office will send the results from the machine to Santa Fe where it will be looked at by a criminalist.

This is an investigative tool. It's not the final say. So when there is hit, there's a likely hit. Then again, that goes to a human in Santa Fe and for that, they do do that work, but we're giving them everything and all we're saying is as a human technician, please confirm it," Stewart said. "So this is a step in the process, but it's an important step.

Stewart added that New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich's office helped DACSO secure the federal funding after the sheriff's office presented the need for the technology.

Hobbs and Albuquerque are the only two locations in the state that have access to similar testing, according to Stewart.