New DNA Collection Equipment

The York County District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the York County Safety Collab and a generous donation from the David Hogg Family Foundation, completed the installation of new, high-tech, DNA collection equipment this month. This equipment will expand law enforcement’s ability to collect DNA evidence and increase the accuracy of its investigations.

DNA has long been recognized as more accurate than fingerprints and other evidence, and has played a key role in exonerating individuals who were falsely accused or imprisoned. Despite that, the collection of DNA from porous objects such as clothing or furniture is often difficult without the proper equipment. And in many crime scenes, those surfaces are typically where DNA evidence is found.

The York County Safety Collab recently purchased an M-Vac DNA collection system which is maintained by the York County District Attorney’s Office and available to all 17 police departments in York County. The M-Vac system allows for enhanced DNA collection especially on surfaces that are rough, porous, or irregular, and also where stains are not visible to the naked eye. The vacuum system has been used to accurately collect samples from shirts, pants, shoes, pockets, skin, bricks, ropes, cinder blocks, sofas, chairs, and many other surfaces. It also allows for more collection points to be submitted in one sample which can ease lab congestion and increase the speed of investigations.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, researchers with the FBI determined that a wet-vacuum system like the M-Vac system was an excellent alternative to typical swabbing, especially on difficult porous surfaces. During several extensive tests, the M-Vac system outperformed traditional wet-swabbing of porous materials, and typically recovered anywhere from 12-46 times more genetic material.

Training for the new collection equipment was completed this month, and the M-Vac is ready to be used on its first case. Presently, that case is scheduled to be a York County Regional cold case where there was previously no way of collecting valuable DNA samples.

Many thanks again to the David Hogg Family Foundation for its generous donation that made the purchase of this critical equipment possible. Our goal is to continue to provide similar tools so our county can administer justice quickly, fairly, accurately, and without prejudice. Ultimately, equipment like this not only helps our justice system to serve us better, it keeps us all safer.