Some 250 cases, mostly burglaries in Queens, N.Y., are part of a trial expansion of DNA testing in New York City to crimes other than rape and homicide, the New York Times reports. Since it started in January, the program called Biotracks has identified 23 suspects tied to 34 cases, most of which the police say would not otherwise have been solved. The police see enormous potential to combat crimes that leave victims feeling frustrated and vulnerable and the investigators searching, usually in vain, for witnesses or fingerprints. In 2002, New York police made arrests in 15 percent of burglaries.
The department hopes to expand DNA testing to burglaries, robberies. and car thefts in all five boroughs, a goal that city officials say will be greatly advanced when the medical examiner’s office opens a new $267 million DNA lab in 2006. “We’re just beginning to learn how effective this is,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. “We’ve had it in rape cases and homicide cases. Now you see the kind of natural expansion and progression of the program.” As little as 10 years ago, testing samples from thousands of crime scenes would have been unthinkably expensive. The National Institute of Justice, which paid for Biotracks with a grant of $175,000, says that the most active burglars each commit an average of more than 230 break-ins a year. NIJ has made grants for DNA testing in property crimes to New York and to Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties in Florida.