More DNA Tests In Property Crimes Could Pressure Justice System


The biggest problem likely to emerge from wider use of DNA evidence in property crime cases isn’t an increase in false positives–it’s the problem of success, says Governing magazine. In the United Kingdom, where such DNA testing is routine, authorities find biological evidence at 15 percent of crime scenes. There were 2.2 million reported U.S. burglaries in in 2008. John Roman, an Urban Institute criminologist, estimates that if U.S. police expanded the use of DNA collection aggressively, they could arrest another 200,000 per year. “That’s 200,000 potential felons entering the criminal justice system, where we only send 700,000 people to prison a year on felony convictions now,” he notes. “That would put enormous pressure on the criminal justice system.”

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey believes that a property crime crackdown seeking DNA evidence played a significant role in Denver’s crime drop over the past four years, a topic explored recently in on Governing magazine says that not everyone shares this enthusiasm for the broader use of DNA evidence. “There is a public perception that DNA profiles are black and white,” says Wright State University molecular biologist Dan Krane. “The reality is that easily in half of all cases–namely, those where the samples are mixed or degraded–there is the potential for subjectivity.”

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