In this Feb. 6, 2015, file photo, Lonnie Franklin Jr., who has been dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer, looks back at his attorney, Louisa Pensanti, during a court hearing in Los Angeles. In May 2016, Franklin was convicted of 10 counts of first-degree murder for crimes dating back more than 30 years. Franklin's arrest was the result of familial searching, a way of scanning the DNA profiles of unknown criminals at crime scenes, then using certain genetic markers to comb through CODIS and other databases to find male relatives. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

DNA detective work through the complex networks of state and national databases is a growing phenomenon, according to new Office of Justice Programs reports.

Familial searching, partial matching and lineage searches are in use in many states, and continue to gain ground, according to a series of papers produced for the agency by the ICF consulting firm, based in Fairfax, Virginia.

The consulting firm concludes 11 states have used familial searching, and 24 have utilized partial matches from databases to assist criminal investigations.

Multiple surveys, expert roundtables and other analyses of more than 100 crime labs nationwide found that nearly half plan to use such advanced genetic searches in the future.

But some experts contend the adoption of such techniques has not moved fast enough. Indeed, the OJP surveys found there was a relatively simple explanation for why the advanced assessments aren’t in use in more states and jurisdictions.

“Analysis of those labs not performing FDS suggests that the primary reason may be a lack of guidelines or other logistical concerns, as opposed to ethical or legal concerns,” conclude the consulting firm’s authors.

The half-dozen reports were published last year and through this summer. They count the states that have done FS as Colorado, California, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Utah and Wisconsin.

(Forensic Magazine has previously reported 10 states actively use FS, including Ohio, which began its use of the technique last December. The ICF report did not include Ohio; Forensic’s surveys last year did not include Pennsylvania or Minnesota. Both states appear to have discontinued use of the technique as of October 2017. However, the DNA searches have been used to crack cases, like in a 1981 homicide of a teenager in Minnesota).

The consultants look at three overall categories of the DNA searches.

Familial searching, also known as FDS or FS, involves an active and deliberate searching of databases using specialized software and algorithms to find close relatives. This kind of search is still not permissible at the national database level, as per FBI policy.

Partial matches appear when CODIS is searched with less stringent parameters, and possible relatives appear from multiple common markers.

Lineage testing includes Y-STR analysis (paternally linked) and mitochondrial (maternally linked) assessments.

Forty labs in 24 states use the partial matches, which are allowed at the national level, the ICF report concludes.

Some 75 percent of the laboratories that do not use familial searching said they have discussed using the technique—and nearly half (42 percent) plan on using it in the future, according to the surveys.

The reasons for not using it so far: lack of clear guidelines (34 percent), and concerns about usefulness (26 percent) and training (24 percent), according to the reports.

Some forensic experts have pushed for the use of familial searching in places like New York State, arguing that it could be a crucial tool to find some of the most violent criminals who have eluded authorities. For these experts, labs' reluctance to pursue FS and partial matching is inconceivable.

"It is great that, after over 10 years' discussion, 42% of the labs plan to use FS sometime in the future," said Rockne Harmon, retired Alameda County (Calif.) prosecutor, and DNA expert. "This dawdling has undoubtedly allowed for some rapes and murders that certainly could have been prevented."

The biggest breakthrough so far in the use of FS was the arrest of the California serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper. Lonnie Franklin Jr., 63, was found guilty in 2016 of killing nine women and a teenage girl over a 22-year period. He was sentenced to death and now awaits execution.

Police detectives found him in 2010 when they ran a familial search—and found Franklin’s son, who was part of the DNA database for an unrelated incident. Follow-up investigative work confirmed Franklin as a Sleeper suspect, leading to detectives obtaining a sample of his DNA from an eating utensil.

Marguerite Rizzo, the deputy district attorney in Los Angeles who worked the DNA parts of the case against Franklin, told Forensic Magazine last year that California carefully set up their familial searching policies.

“Our program appears to be so tightly controlled, that we’re taking every step to guarantee the correct person will be identified and arrested,” said Rizzo. “We don’t take any of this lightly. We want everyone’s privacy rights to be respected, and no shortcuts to be taken.”