The Harris County, Tx., Institute of Forensic Sciences aids law enforcement in solving property crimes by testing evidence for “touch DNA” – microscopic skin cells containing DNA that naturally rub off when an object, like a car steering wheel, is touched, says the Houston Chronicle. The technology can be used even if the suspect is wearing gloves because there’s a high likelihood the skin cells were transferred onto the gloves when the perpetrator was slipping them on.
“It was a pretty incredible tool for us to have to identify some of these suspects,” said Sgt. Terry Wilson of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office auto-theft division. “These (burglary of a motor vehicle) cases are some of the hardest cases for law enforcement to solve because there’s almost never any eyewitnesses. There’s very rarely any good evidence left behind, fingerprint evidence and things like that, and once we started recovering some of this DNA, it was pretty exciting there for a while.” Since 2008, the institute made more than 3,000 matches to crime suspects in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System database, or CODIS, a national database used to store DNA profiles. Of those, about 75 percent were for property crime cases.