It Won’t Grab Headlines, But DNA Can Solve Property Crime, Too


In recent years, DNA analysis has grabbed the nation’s imagination, delivering justice to hundreds of murderers and rapists — and freeing the occasional innocent inmate. Soon, though, it may be put to the less sexy task of putting burglars and car thieves behind bars, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Researchers say they’ve shown DNA analysis could revolutionize property crime investigation, bringing the technology’s benefits to far more people than are touched by headline-grabbing violence.

Arrest rates for burglaries and car prowls more than doubled when detectives used DNA-matching technology, according to a study by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center. That change in arrest rate — from 12 percent to 31 percent — meant greater risk for criminals, which could have an even greater deterrent effect. “The use of DNA is going to cause a revolution in policing,” said John Roman, an Urban Institute economist and lead author of the study. “As a society, we’re going to have to decide whether to make a substantial investment to use this evidence in investigation.” That investment, on average, is $14,169 per arrest in the five cities where police used DNA testing during the study, Roman said. Not included in that cost is the expense of prosecuting or incarcerating property criminals who would otherwise go free.


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