Dozens of police departments around the U.S. are amassing their own DNA databases to track criminals, the Associated Press reports. It’s a move critics say is a way around regulations governing state and national databases that restrict who can provide genetic samples and how long that information is held. Local agencies create the rules for their databases, sometimes allowing samples to be taken from children or from people never arrested for a crime. Police chiefs say having their own collections helps them solve cases faster because they can avoid the backlogs that plague state and federal repositories.
Frederick Harran, the public safety director in Bensalem Township, Pa., was an early adopter of a local database. Since it was created in 2010, he said robberies and burglaries have been gone down due to arrests made because of the DNA collection. Harran said the Pennsylvania state lab takes up to 18 months to process DNA taken from a burglary scene. With the local database authorities go through a private lab and get results within a month. He uses money from assets seized from criminals to pay for the private lab work. “If they are burglarizing and we don’t get them identified in 18 to 24 months, they have two years to keep committing crimes,” he said. Law Prof. Jason Kreig of the University of Arizona says, “The local databases have very, very little regulations and very few limits, and the law just hasn’t caught up to them. Everything with the local DNA databases is skirting the spirit of the regulations.”