Forensic DNA Beyond T.V. Land
Unless you live in a protective shell, most of us are familiar with the use of DNA testing to solve violent crimes such as rape and murder. However, it is being discovered that the use of DNA testing can also solve many of the high-volume crimes such as burglary. The DNA evidence collected can come from obvious sources such as blood but can also be found in "invisible" DNA evidence such as sweat, skin cells or saliva.
While burglary may not be considered a violent crime, you should be aware of the progression of these types of crimes. Many murderers and rapists have been shown to have previous records of burglary. Thus, proving that in many cases, the escalation of their crimes can lead to violence. Some law enforcement offices have begun to use the DNA evidence from these types of non-violent crimes to solve long-running crime sprees by linking DNA evidence at these crime scenes to the DNA evidence at other crime scenes.
In comparison, NYPD found that when DNA evidence collected from a "no-suspect" murder scene was entered into CODIS (combined DNA index system), it often matched DNA evidence collected from a "no-suspect" burglary. Review of the State's first 1,000 hits showed that the vast majority were linked to crimes like homicide and rape, but of these, 82 percent of the offenders were already in the data bank as a result of a prior conviction for a "lesser" crime such as burglary or drugs. According to a Florida State study, 52 percent of database hits against murder and sexual assault cases matched individuals who had prior convictions for burglary.
Backlog and Low Funding
While these are only a few case studies, it would appear to reason that the escalation of non-violent criminals to violence will be more substantiated as other studies are completed. However, many states are not equipped financially in the use of DNA testing, therefore creating backlogs in the analysis of DNA evidence. This is one of the biggest problems facing the criminal justice system today. This backlog has been caused by massive DNA analysis requests without corresponding growth in forensic laboratory capacity.
DNA evidence is playing a larger role than ever before in not only convicting the guilty but also in exonerating those accused of criminal acts. Therefore, DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. The demand for tools and technologies far exceeds the current capabilities of the field. The forensic DNA community would greatly benefit from technical tools and technology that can be appropriately validated, quality-controlled, quality-assured and implemented for forensic use.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funds research to improve the use of forensic DNA. This program's goal is to direct advances in human genetics, molecular biology and biotechnology toward the development of novel tools and technologies that will permit DNA to be used in all areas of criminal investigation.
It is hoped that more and more grants will become available for the structure of DNA testing laboratories across the country to aid in the decrease in backlog of DNA testing. While it has proved to be one of today's most effective ways to solve criminal cases, these studies are far from reaching their capabilities. As more and more research is developed, the process of DNA testing broadens.
Perhaps, one day, the needed funding will be available for this invaluable technology so that many of the violent crimes can be prevented from happening altogether by the DNA comparison in lessor crimes to convict what "could be" violent offenders before they escalate to that extent. What do you think? Will we ever be able to collect DNA sample from non-violent criminals who protest it and claim violation of their rights?