LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A backlog of unanalyzed fingerprint evidence has more than doubled in the last two years, hampering Los Angeles Police Department investigations into thousands of burglaries and other property crimes, officials said Wednesday.

The number of such cases numbered about 2,200 in 2012, compared with current cases topping 5,400, according to data reported by The Los Angeles Times.

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The backlog comes despite LAPD efforts to process fingerprints more effectively, including having officers rather than analysts collect fingerprints at some crime scenes, The Times reported.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck described the backlog as “very problematic” and attributed the delays to a staffing shortage within the LAPD’s Latent Print Unit, The Times reported.

But Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the situation has forced personnel to adopt some changes that could pay off in the long run.

“They’re training officers themselves to do some of the fingerprinting, so they’re really freeing up the people that we have to do all the stuff that takes the special training,” said Soboroff.

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LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told The Times the problem is likely to linger in the near term due to current staffing levels in the unit, which currently has 60 employees, 36 fewer than full capacity.

On Tuesday, Albanese told the civilian-led Police Commission that the delay was so severe that some fingerprints were now useless
because the three-year deadline for prosecuting offenders had passed.

According to Soboroff, funding the unit and the LAPD in general is probably the most critical factor to ensure police have all the necessary tools for crime-solving.

“The under-funding of a police department is serious business, it’s not just another thing that goes unfunded,” he said. “To have appropriate community police and appropriate constitutional policing, you need appropriate funding.”

As much as an additional $200 million would be needed on top of the current LAPD budget of $1.2 billion “in order to do what we need to do,” Soboroff said.

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