NEW YORK (AP) – The city will review hundreds of DNA profiles in unsolved sexual assault cases and bring indictments that would stop the statute of limitations from running out on the crimes.

Charging the unidentified rapists by DNA alone will “stop the clock” on a 10-year deadline to prosecute, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday in announcing the effort.

“So on the day that we find out who that rapist is, whether it takes us 10 years, 20 years, 30 years or more, he will have his day in court,” he said.

While the strategy has been used sparingly in New York and elsewhere in the past, Bloomberg said it will become “business as usual in our city.”

The first stage of the project will single out the cases from 1994 that involved attacks by strangers.

They are starting with the 1994 cases because they are fast approaching the 10-year deadline.

The program draws on a trend that began in October 1999 when prosecutors in Milwaukee filed charges against an unknown suspect in three rape cases based solely on his DNA profile.

In March 2000, Manhattan prosecutors filed an indictment against a suspect known as “The East Side Rapist” in an attempt to stop the clock on three of seven rapes the unknown man was suspected of committing from 1994 to 1998.

Bloomberg said the statute of limitations has been rendered obsolete by advances in DNA evidence, and called on state legislators to abolish it.

Some experts said the program raised questions about whether the technology used to test older samples of DNA is reliable enough to indict suspects.

“This may suggest a level of reliability in DNA testing that we may not have yet achieved,” said Ben Rich, an associate professor of bioethics at the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

AP-ES-08-04-03 2128EDT

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