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Buchanan says faster DNA tracking needed


SARASOTA - It's a matter of priorities.

Vern Buchanan
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, center, with Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, left, and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight at Friday's meeting with the media.

The government should focus more on getting the DNA of violent felons like Delmar Smith, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said Friday, and less on the DNA of white-collar criminals like Bernie Madoff.

Buchanan met with Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight at his office in Sarasota, and discussed the Delmar Smith case with the law officers and the media.

Smith, 38, has been charged in a series of violent home invasions in Sarasota. His DNA was collected locally seven months ago, Buchanan's office said in a press release, and in March 2008 the federal prison Smith was in had his DNA and had sent it to the FBI, but it was not in the FBI's database before his release in September 2008.

"I am not looking to blame anyone," Buchanan said. "The only bad guy here is the person who committed these crimes. I am looking for ways to help the FBI expedite the entry of DNA into the database so we can identify and catch these criminals sooner. We all want to protect the public from violent offenders."

Buchanan said Friday that the FBI told him it had hired more people clear the backlog of DNA taken from convicts, and they are being trained and will be working in the next six months.

Knight, the Sarasota sheriff, refused to speculate on whether an updated database would have prevented the home invasions or to discuss the details of the Smith case since it's still under investigation.

But he agreed that the DNA of violent sexual offenders, for example, should be in the database as soon as possible and before that person is released from prison.

"The big thing that I thought is we can't let these folks out of prison without making sure that (law enforcement) has access to that information," Buchanan said. "We want to get the bad guys off the street early."


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