PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawfully-owed DNA project has garnered more than 2,000 DNA samples since its inception, helping officials to better identify the suspects in violent and sex crimes.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, convicted sex offenders and other violent crime offenders are required to submit DNA samples per state law — but a number of them neglect to do so.

Ferguson, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and local agencies, introduced the lawfully-owed DNA project back in October 2019 as a way to prevent this from happening.

“Collecting the DNA of thousands of serious offenders will help us solve more cold cases,” Ferguson said in a statement. “This work makes communities safer and sends the message that we will use every tool at our disposal to bring justice to survivors and victims of these devastating crimes.”

Although the AG’s Office launched the project, it doesn’t have a direct role in gathering or testing the DNA.

Using data from the Washington State Patrol and Department of Corrections, investigators with the office’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative are responsible for determining which offenders haven’t provided a DNA profile and contacting them via letter. Ferguson’s staff then works with Washington agencies to reach those who don’t respond.

According to officials, 2,061 samples have been added to the Combined DNA Index System in just less three years. The AG’s office said that 76 of those samples led to a “hit,” or a match between the DNA provided and the evidence already filed in the CODIS.

Washington authorities reported that this project and the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant have helped law enforcement to crack criminal cases from years prior.

“In March 2022, Spokane police arrested Kenneth Downing in connection with home invasions and rapes in Pullman in 2003 and 2004,” Ferguson’s office said. “AGO-funded genetic genealogy testing helped match Downing’s DNA to the suspect in both crimes.”

Downing is now serving a life sentence in prison for several counts of rape and assault.