>> Metropolitan police are testing a new DNA-collection kit that could help them put more gun criminals behind bars.
About 200 officers have been trained to collect DNA from guns while the evidence is still fresh using the Trigger ID kits.
"We're here today to put those with illegal firearms on notice that we have a new tool which can lead to better identification of suspects and their subsequent removal from our streets," Chief Michael Spears said in a statement. "IMPD is proud to be a pioneer in the use of this new technology."
Laboratory tests of the kits show scientists often can find DNA on a gun more readily than they can find a fingerprint, said Vincent Perez, a vice president for Forensic ID, the Indianapolis-based manufacturer of Trigger ID.
"Fingerprinting is 100 years old," said Perez, who also invented the product. "Now, when we look at it and the technology we've developed, it's allowed us to move with the times and get better evidence at the scene."
Perez, a lawyer and former police officer, got the idea for the kits while he worked at Strand Analytical Laboratories, the DNA testing venture launched by former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman in 2005. Newman gave up his operating interest in the lab when Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard appointed him public safety director in January.
The Police Department is spending $140,000 to $160,000 for 400 kits, officials said. The money is coming from a federal grant.
The kits include three ballpoint pen-sized plastic cases that contain cotton swabs. After finding a gun at a crime scene, an officer opens the cases, rubs each swab across three different parts of the gun -- pistol grip, barrel and magazine -- then closes the cases and stores them in an evidence bag.
The officers received an hour of training in proper collection techniques and must wear gloves and a breathing mask to avoid compromising any DNA that might be recovered.
The department has been using the kits about two months, but officials are not saying exactly where the devices have been deployed.
Officials hope the kits will lead to more arrests and prosecutions of those who commit gun crimes.
"Firearms cases are very difficult," U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison said. "If a gun is found laying 4 to 5 feet from somebody, . . . no one is going to claim it."
Morrison was among a group of local law enforcement experts Perez asked to help develop the device. Others included Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Forensic Services Agency Director Mike Medler.
Helen Marchal, Brizzi's chief of staff, said she expects defense attorneys to try to challenge the kits but thinks judges will stand behind the evidence.
"It's not new science, it's a new collection process," Marchal said. "I'm confident we will withstand any challenge."
The Trigger ID kit is small enough to fit in an officer's pocket. The swabs are designed to collect DNA specimens from handguns in rain, snow or other harsh conditions.
Indianapolis is the first department to use the devices in the field, Perez said.<<