FORT WORTH — A $92,000 "robot" will soon be part of the team at the Fort Worth police crime lab.
The purchase should help the department expedite processing of DNA samples for the most violent of crimes, like sexual assaults and homicides.
"This is huge for us," said lab worker Cassie Johnson.
The EZ 1 Advanced XL Robot, produced by Qiagen, Inc, will let staff analyze up to 14 DNA samples at one time. The process will only take 20 to 30 minutes, a big improvement over what workers face now on some cases.
"If you manually extract a DNA sample, it can take several hours," Johnson said.
The lab clears more than 8,000 cases annually, but only about 250 of those are strictly related to DNA.
A lack of staffing and equipment has forced the lab to outsource much of the DNA testing elsewhere. A News 8 report last year pointed out that was costing taxpayers a minimum of $150,000 annually.
But perhaps worse than the cost was the additional time it took to process cases.
"This will really help," Johnson said. "Each case is unique. It could be as little as five days, but on a routine case it could take up to a month."
The lab just started processing DNA samples again in 2012 after an investigation in 2002 found big flaws in how the lab was handling such cases.
The robot should be up and operating before summer.