SARASOTA - The FBI needs to develop a way to update its DNA databases to ensure information about violent criminals, like ex-convict Delmer Smith III, is more quickly available to local law enforcement, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said today.
Flanked by sheriffs Brad Steube of Manatee and Tom Knight of Sarasota, Buchanan used a news conference to call for the FBI to set up a priority system that ensures that identifying DNA information from violent offenders moves to the top of the pile when it is being entered into databases. Buchanan said he emphasized that point in a meeting with FBI officials Thursday, and said it is possible he will introduce legislation to address the problem.
Smith, who was released from federal prison in September 2008, has been charged with four home invasions and assaults in Sarasota County earlier this year, and he is a suspect in several other attacks in Manatee and Sarasota
The FBI had Smith's DNA since March 2008, but the FBI did not enter it into its databases until last month when local officials made a request after Smith emerged as a possible suspect. Only then did Sarasota investigators learn that it matched DNA recovered from the scenes of four brutal home invasion attacks earlier this year.
Previous searches had failed to find a match because of the lag in entering Smith's DNA into the system caused by a backlog of some 295,000 cases.
"My sense is they are putting a lot of people through the process, but we’ve got to make sure our sheriffs have the tools they need for public safety because maybe in the future something like this can be avoided possibly if they have access to those tools early," Buchanan said.
Buchanan, R-Sarasota, refused to speculate whether he thought some of the crimes Smith is suspected of committed might have been prevented if his DNA had been entered into the FBI database in a more timely manner.