Last summer, Bensalem, Pa., police interrupted a burglary and caught two suspects. Eleven days later and 10 miles north, someone threw a rock through a window to get into a home and steal three handguns. In the past, says the Philadelphia Daily News, investigators might have been hard-pressed to solve the second break-in, let alone link it to the first. Thanks to a new countywide, multijurisdictional DNA database, cops cracked both cases within weeks, after finding DNA evidence at the first burglary that proved the suspect in the second was behind both crimes.
Bucks County officials announced the new database, the first of its kind nationally, yesterday. They recounted case after case in which the new database solved crimes that might have gone cold with few other clues. Most states and big cities have their own DNA databases, but smaller towns and rural burgs don’t. They must send DNA swabs to their bigger brethren for testing. That has left many small police departments waiting months to more than a year for results from overburdened state or city DNA labs that prioritize murders and other serious crimes. Bucks County’s new database delivers results within 30 days, or 24 hours for urgent cases, said Fred Harran, Bensalem’s public safety director. With all 40 Bucks County police departments participating, authorities expect to catch lawbreakers who have dodged justice in the past by hitting the road to a different town.