Advocates Say DNA Testing In Burglaries Is Worth The Cost


More than 2 million burglaries occur each year in the U.S., but arrests are made only about 12 percent of the time, says the Kansas City Star. If society wants to get serious about property crimes, it will cost. Initial DNA testing of evidence costs only about $1,400, said a recent Urban Institute study, but on average it takes $4,502 to identify a suspect, $14,169 for each additional arrest, and $6,169 more for each case prosecuted. Urban Institute economist John Roman said society would have to make choices about crimes like burglary, which spread loss and fear in neighborhoods. “It's an offense that has real consequences, and we've tended to treat it as more of a nuisance,” he said. “You're going to have all these nonviolent offenders with slam-dunk cases against them.”

Advocates say the higher costs must be balanced against millions of dollars in lost property, the higher insurance rates caused by petty criminals, and citizens' loss of peace of mind. Linda Netzel, director of the Kansas City Police Crime Lab, noted that many thieves steal until they are caught. “If we just let these crimes go on,” she said, “the DNA costs will look like chump change.” The Urban Institute study found that suspects identified by DNA – usually matched to felon databases – tended to be repeat offenders with twice as many prior felony arrests and convictions as those caught by other methods. Denver reported a 26 percent drop in its burglary rate after stepping up DNA analysis in burglaries. The DNA work got 95 prolific burglars convicted and prevented thousands of crimes. Each dollar spent saved citizens $63 over two years in police costs and property losses.


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