New York has become the latest of a handful of places to permit a controversial use of DNA evidence that gives law enforcement authorities a sophisticated means to track down criminals, says the New York Times. Under a rule approved last month, DNA found at a crime scene that does not exactly match that of someone in the state's DNA database can still be used to pursue suspects if the DNA closely resembles that of someone on file.
Because family members share genetic traits, a partial DNA match allows investigators to narrow searches to relatives of people whose DNA is already in the state database. Advocates for protecting the public's privacy warned that the practice could be abused and that it promotes a guilt-by-association approach to criminal justice that could result in the investigation of innocent people. New York's DNA database contains more than 343,000 genetic profiles of people convicted of serious crimes. In Denver, searching for partial matches has led to one conviction in the year and a half the city has been using new software that allows investigators to identify possible relatives of suspects. A suspect broke into a car and bled on the dashboard. Investigators matched the blood to someone already in the DNA database who turned out to be the suspect's brother.