Feb 02

A Message from the County Executive: Advancing DNA Technology Solving More Crimes

Posted on February 2, 2023 at 1:44 PM by County Executive

In the coming months, the St. Charles County Police Department Criminalistics Laboratory will add another resource to its toolkit in solving crimes in the area, specifically enhancing the reliability and validity of complex DNA samples. 

A new DNA analysis software, called ArmedXpert™, will allow the Crime Lab to more efficiently and effectively identify DNA profiles that involve multiple contributors. While the Lab’s accredited DNA analysis staff can do this now, the software assesses the DNA components much faster and even more accurately than by human review. I talked with Crime Lab Director Bryan Hampton to understand what this means for our police department and for St. Charles County as a whole.

He told me the software conducts a deconvolution process; it takes information from complex DNA mixtures and parses it out to organize the sample into identifiable profiles at a much higher speed than we can currently. It allows us to extract more information from the data, and garner more usable profiles from complex samples that have multiple contributors, or subjects.

Bryan says this technology will play an important role in cases such as burglaries, stolen vehicles and even homicides.

When there is a mixture of DNA in a sample, Bryan said it is a tedious process to analyze and accurately glean a usable profile to identify which DNA belongs to which individual. The Crime Lab has the capability to do that already, but the complexity and length of time of the process is greatly reduced with this software—from hours down to minutes.

Why does this matter for a St. Charles County resident? This means our Crime Lab can process more forensic evidence, more efficiently. With a workload of more than 2,500 cases each year, there is no shortage of evidence to examine and analyze. Any link from evidence to existing data, or addition of new data, helps cut down the time it takes to charge and prosecute suspects, and fairly and expeditiously aid the judicial process.

Regionally, DNA profiles, fingerprints and ballistic evidence uploaded by the department to investigative databases have provided links between cases. In 2022 alone, 162 DNA profiles uploaded by the Lab to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database “hit” to prior offenders, arrestees, and crime scene samples from across the country. This valuable information has an impact on current cases, but also has helped solve cold cases, such as the 1993 kidnapping and murder of Angie Housman, the 1984 murder of Eleonora Knoernschild, and the 1990-1991 “package killer” murders of five women.

Bryan says this new software will potentially allow the Lab to upload more DNA profiles into CODIS that otherwise may not be eligible. With that, there could be more database hits and the department could make more contributions to solving crime regionally as well as nationally.

While we take pride in keeping our county safe, it’s no secret that crime has impacted our region, and criminals hold no regard for jurisdictional boundaries when committing a criminal act or attempting to flee. We should all be proud of the work of our Crime Lab and how valuable it is in assisting in fighting crime. It is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and has been continuously since 2007. The Lab is staffed by six full-time scientists, a part-time firearm examiner and a part-time evidence clerk with nearly 120 years of combined forensic science experience.

Jan 03

A Message from the County Executive: Launching Emergency Vehicle Preemption

Posted on January 3, 2023 at 4:26 PM by County Executive

As the new year begins, County government is completing a project that allows first responders to reach their destinations in less time while improving safety for them and everyone on our roads. You may have heard of the program – Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) – but what you may not know is that St. Charles County is one of the leaders in the use of this technology. The program is the largest cloud preemption deployment in Missouri and the central United States. 

EVP provides “green light priority” to approaching emergency vehicles. The system reduces emergency vehicle travel times during those critical moments when every second counts. The project includes upgrades to 351 signals throughout the county, 65 fire and rescue trucks, 60 ambulances and 75 County police vehicles.
 
 Prior to this project, municipalities and fire districts were deploying various types of pre-emption equipment. Often, this equipment wasn’t compatible and didn’t work for agencies that provided countywide services or for agencies responding to emergencies outside of their service area.
 
 Without the tremendous collaboration between agencies from public safety, public works, St. Charles County, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and our vendor, Global Traffic Technology, this project would not have been possible. Working closely with our partners, the intersections could be configured in a fully remote environment. Historically, on-site installations can be done at a rate of two intersections per day, but with this advanced technology deployment, they were configured at a rate of 30 per day (15 times faster). This quick turnaround resulted in a labor cost savings of approximately 75 percent.

The cost of the project was $809,000, including three years of monitoring and maintenance. Eighty percent was funded with Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality dollars. The remaining 20 percent was funded by St. Charles County’s voter-approved, ½-cent Transportation Sales Tax, which is administered by the St. Charles County Road Board.

My thanks to everyone who worked to make this project possible. This is definitely money well-spent to save lives.

Dec 01

A Message from the County Executive: Thank You to Our Employees

Posted on December 1, 2022 at 11:13 AM by County Executive

As we come upon the close of 2022, I want to take this time to publicly thank all the employees at St. Charles County Government for their dedication and service. Like many businesses and organizations across the country, your County Government has experienced staffing shortages that have presented challenges and tested our perseverance. 

As I write this, we have 149 open positions across 30 departments, with the biggest needs in Corrections, Emergency Communications (911 Dispatch), Police, Highway and Parks. The County Council will be approving the 2023 budget this month which has for their consideration a major overhaul of starting salaries and compensation for the County’s workforce. This is needed for County government to compete with others in the region, and to recruit and retain exceptional employees.

Despite these staffing issues, all departments have continued to provide the excellent service you have come to expect, and I am proud of that. Here are just some of their major accomplishments for 2022:

  • POLICE DEPARTMENT: With American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, extended School Resource Officer (SRO) placement to include every public school in unincorporated St. Charles County, as well as Augusta Elementary School in the Washington School District, and schools in Dardenne Prairie and Weldon Spring. To learn more, click here.
  • POLICE, SHERIFF, CORRECTIONS: Completed deployment of body cameras to improve transparency and public trust. The system also includes forward- and rear-facing cameras and routers for law enforcement vehicles.
  • EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS: From January through October of this year, dispatchers answered 57,733 9-1-1 calls, and dispatched 57,617 police-related incidents and 53,627 fire and EMS-related incidents. 9-1-1 calls were answered, on average, within 3.3 seconds and 99.1 percent were answered within 10 seconds or less. National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standard is that all calls should be answered within 15 seconds 90 percent of the time. 
  • PUBLIC HEALTH: While down nearly 40 percent in staffing, all services were continued with little reduction of hours of operation. 
  • PARKS: Parks personnel designed, engineered, constructed, and opened Oglesby Park in Foristell in a record-breaking seven months. They even nearly filled a 12-acre lake in the middle of July and had fish in it for the opening!
  • ROADS AND TRAFFIC: Installation and deployment of the Emergency Vehicle Preemption program is near completion. The program provides “green” light priority to approaching emergency vehicles, allowing first responders to reach their destinations quicker and safer. This includes upgraded technology at 351 intersections and in 200 emergency vehicles.
  • WORKFORCE AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: In addition to organizing and publicizing the department’s move to a new location, employees provided 16,386 individual services to 3,097 clients and assisted 342 employers with 5,290 different services.
  • HIGHWAY: Despite being 30 percent down in staffing, the department increased the number of work orders addressed/repaired and maintained the number of roads resurfaced compared to 2021. 
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: In response to the flash flooding event on July 26, Community Development staff conducted a survey of more than 2,300 structures within three days and found 25 with major damage and 57 with minor damage. Staff also secured a $15 million CDBG-DR grant application for voluntary buyout of flood-damaged homes from the 2019 flood.

While this is a look back, and the list of accomplishments goes on, we’re continuing to move forward. You can read more by perusing our website, reviewing past issues of this newsletter or reading our press releases. You can also stay up to date by following us on social media. And watch for the County’s Impact Report to the Community that will be mailed to all St. Charles County households in the spring.

Again, many thanks to our employees for a successful 2022. I wish all of them, and all of you, a happy, healthy holiday season.