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DNA Field Experiment: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the Use of DNA in the Investigation of High-Volume Crimes

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2008
163 pages
This DNA Field Experiment--which was conducted in five communities (Orange County and Los Angeles, CA; Topeka, KS; Denver, CO; and Phoenix, AZ)--assessed the cost-effectiveness of expanding DNA evidence collection and analysis to the investigation of property crimes.

Compared to traditional property-crime investigations, the study found that property-crime cases in which DNA evidence was processed produced more than twice as many suspect identifications, twice as many suspect arrests, and more than twice as many cases accepted for prosecution. DNA evidence was at least five times more likely to result in suspect identification compared with fingerprint evidence. Further, suspects identified with DNA had at least twice as many prior felony arrests and convictions as those identified by traditional investigative techniques. DNA evidence from blood resulted in better case outcomes than DNA from other biological evidence, particularly evidence from items touched or handled. Biological material collected by forensic technicians was no more likely to result in a suspect being identified than biological material collected by patrol officers. The study estimated that it costs $4,502 to identify a suspect via DNA evidence who would otherwise not be identified via traditional investigative techniques. Since investigations that focus on DNA evidence are more costly and involve more evidence for cases to be processed by police, labs, and courts, a substantial investment will be required to expand the capacity of crime laboratories, police, and prosecutors. The study involved the collection of biological evidence at up to 500 crime scenes in each community between November 2005 and July 2007. They included burglaries (residential and business) and theft from automobiles. Random assignment produced an approximate equal split between cases handled with DNA evidence collection and traditional investigative techniques. Chapter tables and figures and 52 references

Date Published: April 1, 2008