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DNA Solves Property Crimes (But Are We Ready for That?)

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 261 Dated: 2008 Pages: 2-12
Date Published
October 2008
11 pages
This paper reports on research which found that DNA analysis of biological evidence collected at burglary scenes increased the clearance rate for these crimes.
The study (the DNA Field Experiment) found that when DNA analysis of biological evidence at burglary scenes was added to traditional property crime investigation, more than twice as many suspects were identified; twice as many suspects were arrested; and more than twice as many cases were accepted for prosecution. The study also found that suspects were five times more likely to be identified through DNA evidence than through fingerprints; blood evidence was more effective in solving property crimes than other biological evidence; and evidence collected by forensic technicians was no more likely to result in a suspect being identified than evidence collected by patrol officers. Another significant finding was that suspects identified by DNA had at least twice as many prior felony arrests and convictions as those identified through traditional burglary investigation techniques. The research involved five study sites: Orange County, CA; Los Angeles; Denver; Phoenix; and Topeka, KS. From November 2005 to July 2007, each of the five jurisdictions collected biological samples--i.e., evidence thought to contain human cells (hair, tissue, bones, teeth, blood, or other bodily fluids)--from 500 property crime scenes. Outcomes were compared for cases investigated with traditional techniques (no DNA analysis) and those that involved DNA analysis of biological evidence collected at the crime scene. Although the study findings are good news for those who want to see more property offenders arrested and convicted, the large-scale implementation of DNA analysis has significant implications for the size and allocation of criminal justice resources. Resource implications are discussed for the Nation's crime laboratories that already have significant DNA backlogs, prosecutor and public-defender offices, and expanded jail and prison populations. 1 table, 3 figures, and 11 notes

Date Published: October 1, 2008