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DNA in the Courtroom

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

If you are reading this blog, then we have to assume that at the very least, you have recognised that DNA profiling in a criminal context has fast become the most powerful criminal justice tool used in the world today and is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. The DNA Project certainly recognises this fact and in its national effort to create DNA awareness in SA, we have extended our awareness campaign beyond just the crime scene, to include awareness in our justice system. Without convictions, all the hard work at ground level may also be set to fail, because it is not used expeditiously in a case where it could potentially provide one of the strongest forms of evidence to link the suspect to the crime scene.

However, to ensure DNA’s optimum use in criminal proceedings, it is imperative that criminal justice litigators are properly conversant with the scientific basis and presentation of such evidence, as well as with its potential usefulness in criminal cases. As such, the DNA Project is hosting and funding the its first Legal workshop tomorrow for the Western Cape Branch of the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority). Over 60 prosecutors will be present as well as representatives from the Legal Aid Board and the Department of Justice. The aim of this course is to form a bridge between the science of DNA and the legal aspects of DNA evidence. It will provide criminal justice litigators with the necessary information not only to understand the significance of DNA evidence, but also to successfully adduce, recognize and if necessary, challenge the validity of such evidence in court.

Below is a brief outline of the issues which will be covered in the full day course:

Part One: Overview of DNA Profiling – Prof. Valerie Corfield

A single cigarette butt left at the scene of a robbery and murder has led to the conviction of a 24-year-old man

1.1 The science underlying DNA profiling — what does a profile look like, how does a DNA database work for criminal intelligence and the latest developments in this field.
1.2 Collection of samples for DNA Purposes: sample taking in terms of the current CPA and proposed sample taking in terms of the new Draft Bill
1.3 SAPS FSL Disclosure Policies

Part Two: The DNA Bill – Ms Vanessa Lynch

4.1 An overview of current legislation regulating DNA collection, analysis and use in the courtroom
4.2 An introduction to the draft DNA Bill and its impact on the way in which DNA profiles will be regulated in SA

Part Three: DNA in the Courtroom – Dr Andra le Roux Kemp
3.1 The significance of a Match and whether it ought to be challenged
3.2 Constitutionality of section 212
3.3 Evaluation of evidence: the possible grounds upon which challenges to the weight of DNA evidence can be made
3.4 Defense and prosecution fallacies

Part Four: Pre-trial Issues – Lt Col. Sharlene Otto
2.1 Interpreting the lab report
2.2 Meaning of a match
2.3 Important Questions to ask in preparation for trail

The presenters:

Professor Valerie Corfield,  BSc Hons Botany (Bristol, UK); MSc Cell Biology (Wright Sate University, USA); PhD Genetics (University of the Witwatersrand).Medical scientist, Department of Medical Biosciences, Stellenbosch University. Professor Corfield’s research focus is the molecular genetics of inherited heart disease. She has published extensively and is rated as a scientist with international recognition by the National Research Foundation, for which she serves on several committees. Now semi-retired from her academic position, she delivers lectures and develops and presents interactive workshops which engage the general public in a greater understanding of science and appreciation of its societal implications. Activities include DNA and its applications in forensics. She holds a Wellcome Trust International Engagement award in biomedicine and presents workshops for The DNA Project, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement and Science Centres across South Africa.

Ms Vanessa Lynch BA (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal) LLB (UCT), Founder and Executive Director of the DNA Project. Ms. Lynch qualified as an attorney from UCT in 1993. She left her position as a Commercial attorney in 2005 in order to undertake the work of the DNA Project on a full-time basis and is now the Executive Director of this organisation. She founded the DNA Project following the brutal murder of her father in 2004 after seeking a way in which to meaningfully contribute towards the alleviation of crime in South Africa in a manner which was significant, achievable, tangible and would ultimately have a long term impact towards negating the high crime rate in S.A. An assessment of successful criminal justice systems all pointed to one obvious solution: the abatement of crime in other countries was ultimately achieved through the implementation and development of a National DNA Criminal Intelligence Database. In an effort to emulate this success in South Africa, she established a non-profit organisation to practically address the crime situation in South Africa through the expanded use of DNA evidence in conjunction with South Africa’s National DNA Database.

Dr Andra le Roux-Kemp
BA, LLB (Stell), CML (UNISA), LLD (Stell). Adv of the High Court of South Africa; Part-time lecturer at Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Law. Dr Andra le Roux-Kemp obtained the BA, LLB and LLD degrees from Stellenbosch University and a postgraduate certificate in Medicine and Law from UNISA. Her primary area of interest and expertise relate to particular themes in Criminal Justice and Medical- and Health Law. She has published both locally and is the author of the recently published book Law, Power and the Doctor-Patient Relationship: A Legal Perspective (2011). She is a member of the South African Medico-Legal Society (SAMLS) and the Criminological and Victimological Society of South Africa (CRIMSA) and teaches a LLM module in Legal Medicine annually at Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Law.

Lieutenant Colonel Sharlene Otto: CHIEF FORENSIC ANALYST and REPORTING OFFICER – Biology Unit of the Forensic Science Laboratory (SAPS, Cape Town) Lt Col. Otto has a B. Sc.-degree, with Botany and Zoology as majors from the UFS as well as  a Higher Teaching Diploma and has been attached to the Biology Unit of the Forensic Science Laboratory since November 1993.  Since that time she has received intensive training in serology and various DNA-technique, statistics, STR’s and has attended and presented at both national and international DNA conferences. Sharelene has been involved in the DNA analysis of biological evidentiary samples since 1996 and since November 1997 she has been involved in the STR-analysis of these samples. During October 2003. Lt Col. Otto takes part in both internal and external proficiency tests on a regular basis all of which have completed them all successfully.  In total, Lt Col. Otto has 25 years experience in the biological sciences and is one of South Africa’s most experienced and valuable DNA Forensic Experts.

The DNA Project has funded this DNA Awareness workshop with funds raised to promote DNA Awareness in SA. The DNA Project wishes to thank the Change a Life Trust and Juta for their kind sponsorship towards this workshop.

For more information contact info@dnaproject.co.za

Raped again – by the system

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The article written by Chris Asplen has now been published in Gauteng (Saturday Star, 11 June 2011) , KZN (The Witness, 10 June 2011) and the Western Cape (Sunday Argus, 5 June 2011). The Editor of the Saturday Star took it one step further and commented on Chis Asplen’s article in his Editorial. This is what he had to say:

The editorial refers to the article which has appeared in all three major provinces in South Africa, which was originally written and published in an international Forensic Magazine. It is an opinion piece written by Chris Asplen, who was recently in South Africa, and which visit obviously drove him to write this article. It is uncomprisingly direct and honest and very hard hitting insofar as how the international forensic community view our MP’s. I wonder if any of the members of the portfolio committee for police who are ‘reviewing’ the DNA Bill, read this about themselves? And if so, how did it make them feel? I personally, would not like to have the blood of these and future victims on my hands. Perhaps, however they will prove Mr Asplen wrong, and actually get on with the job at hand this year? Well, we live in hope, as do all the rape survivors and future victims…

Forensic DNA Database legislation urgently needed amid rape epidemic

I am a former prosecutor in the United States where I was the advisor to two US Attorneys General on the use of forensic DNA technology and where I was the Executive Director of the US Department of Justice’s National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence.  My specialty as a prosecutor was the prosecution of sex crimes committed against children. I left the Department of Justice about 10 years ago and began consulting internationally on the integration of forensic DNA evidence into criminal justice systems. I have been fortunate to help over 35 countries realize the potential of DNA technology to protect victims – mostly women and children – from the horrors of rape. I have spent equal time and energy to protect  the innocent – mostly men – from the tragedy of wrongful conviction with the very same technology.

When I first started working abroad, my presentations would often start with a rhetorical question that went something like this:  “What is the most important factor influencing the success of forensic DNA databasing?  Is it the quality of the laboratory performing the analysis? Is it the training and education of the police ensuring that they collect valuable evidence?  Or perhaps the skill with which prosecutors can leverage the probative value of DNA to support their victims’ testimony?” But of course it was a loaded question.  I had my own answer. “It’s actually none of these…” I would say. “The most important factor influencing the potential effect of DNA in any criminal justice system is what the law allows you to do with it.”

Now I am a little biased here.  I am a lawyer by training, by education and probably by nature. But I have a pretty good argument.  You can have the best, most advanced laboratory system in the world, the most rigorous quality assurance procedures, and send specialized crime scene analysts to every crime scene – but those factors mean little if the law does not allow you leverage the full potential of the technology and the evidence.

Nowhere is that dynamic more tragically clear than in South Africa.

I first traveled to South Africa 10 years ago. I left the Department of Justice less than a year earlier and had been invited to participate in a meeting of Interpol’s DNA Expert Monitoring Group in Pretoria.  It was my first trip to the continent so to say that I was excited is an understatement. I did not, in all honesty though, harbor great expectations regarding what I would see from the standpoint of South Africa’s use of DNA technology. But when I saw what the South African Police Service (SAPS) was doing, I was nothing short of astounded.  The SAPS had an automated system for DNA analysis that was unique in the world.  As we toured through the laboratory I realized that it was, at that time,  the most advanced forensic DNA testing robotics system I had ever seen.  I was so impressed that I literally walked out of the lab, got on my phone and called my former colleagues at DOJ trying to convince them to bring Johann and his colleagues to the US so that they could explain what they were doing.  South Africa was going to be a model, not only for Africa, but perhaps for the world.  They had crime statistics that proved South Africa to be one of the most sexually violent places on the planet and they had the capacity and technical sophistication to hit back hard.  South Africa was going to prove the power of DNA like nowhere else.

The automated DNA Robotics system at the Pretoria Forensics Lab

The automated DNA Robotics system at the Pretoria Forensics Lab

Boy was I wrong.

I have just returned from another trip to South Africa, a trip I have made many times since my first visit. And to be clear, it is not the police that have failed, nor is it the technology, nor is it the laboratory personnel.  Rather, ten years after South Africa created one of the most important laboratory infrastructures in the world, the politicians in the South African Parliament have still failed to give police the legal authority to save literally thousands upon thousands of lives with DNA.  Ten years later and South Africa, in contrast with more than 50 countries around the world, still has no legislation allowing for the establishment of a forensic DNA database.

South Africa is a strikingly beautiful country from its coast line at the Cape of Good Hope to Krugar National Park to the wine regions of Stellenbosch.  It is also the economic anchor for sub-Saharan Africa.   It has a technology portfolio that includes a nuclear weapons program (and the wisdom to subsequently dismantle it) a 2002 Noble Prize for work in microbiology and the first human to human heart transplant was performed in South Africa.   And most importantly, it is a country which engineered one of the most significant triumphs of human spirit and potential – the non-violent elimination of apartheid

But South Africa is also a country that, according to the United Nations, ranks second for murder and first for assaults and rapes per capita. 52 people are murdered every day there and the number of rapes reported in a year is around 55,000.  It is estimated that 500,000 rapes are committed annually in South Africa. In a 2009 survey, one in four South African men admitted to raping someone.  Even more insidiously, South Africa has one of the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world.  It is a country where the belief exists that intercourse will cure or prevent HIV/AIDS and where child rape is used as a method of retaliation against someone else for a perceived wrong.  Children are murdered and body parts used for “traditional” medicinal remedies.  And in a country also cursed with epidemic rates of HIV/Aids, rape takes on an exponentially tragic dimension.

The world holds no shortage of human tragedies.  But most of those tragedies persist because there are no clear, identifiable fixes.  Feeding entire starving countries from overworked, infertile land or generating clean, lifesaving water from dry, parched earth are heavy lifts.  Wars and the conflicts that lead to catastrophic loss of human life have been with us since the beginning of time.  But when it comes to fighting back against serial rapists and pedophiles? I have examples from every corner of the planet of exactly what works and just how well.  There is nothing better at getting rapists off the street, at protecting little girls and, by the way, at protecting those who would be wrongly accused and convicted of those serious crimes than DNA databases.

And what exacerbates the tragedy tenfold is the fact that, unlike many countries with the wisdom to implement DNA databases fully, South Africa already has all the other components necessary to leverage the power DNA technology -the laboratory system, the finances, the education and the commitment by police. There are no other excuses, nowhere  else to place responsibility.

As someone who works regularly in other peoples’ countries, I don’t “call out” or criticize foreign  officials easily or often.  But on a scale unequaled anywhere else on earth, hundreds of thousands of children’s lives are sacrificed because of the failure to act by politicians in South Africa.  The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee responsible for the legislation that would give police the ability to immediately begin taking rapists off the street has avoided acting on the law for years.  The legislation sits in Committee while the worst sexual violence statistics in the world continue to pile up.   Except they are not really statistics. They are terrified woman and little girls staring into the face of horrific violence and evil while they are likely infected with HIV – three more of them just in the time it took you to read this article.

Chris Asplen

Executive Director, DNA 4 Africa

Casplen@DNA4Africa.org

What the criminals think

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

What do people who have their profiles on International DNA databases think?

Vanessa has recently written about the Darwin debate that we were involved in at UCT. The debate highlighted many social and ethical issues regarding forensic DNA databases. Interestingly, soon thereafter a friend forwarded me two relevant articles that looked at some of these issues from an entirely different perspective. Both articles discussed research into at what convicted persons thought about having their profiles kept on a forensic database. The first was written by Machado et al (2011) after interviewing 31 Portuguese prisoners. These prisoners were between 22 and 49 years of age and had been convicted of a variety of crimes including homicide, rape, drug trafficking, burglary and driving without a permit. The second study conducted by Stackhouse et al (2010) looked at a slightly different group of people – they interviewed 84 young people between the ages of 15 and 19. 72 had been arrested and had their profiles retained on the UK National DNA database. 58 of them had been found guilty of offences ranging from grievous bodily harm and assault to driving offences.

What was especially interesting about the findings of these studies was that the majority of people (those interviewed that have their DNA profiles on a national database) think that their profiles should be there. They also believe that even if someone is found “innocent” and is acquitted then their profiles should be retained on the database. So whilst politicians and human rights groups contend that profiles should not be kept on a database as this infringes on peoples right to privacy, prisoners argue that as the technology associated with forensic DNA analysis is so reliable and accurate, they would prefer for their profiles to be retained on a database. Their reasoning is that they believe that if police have their profiles on record then they can easily be eliminated from investigations following their release from prison. They felt that having their profiles on the database would actually contribute towards protecting them from police automatically assuming that as ex-convicts they would be involved with the perpetration of similar crimes. One young person claimed “If they’ve got your DNA on there just leave it, I mean he knows he ain’t a criminal so just leave it there…. Just to prove again that it wasn’t me.” Another person thought that having your profile removed may actually seem suspicious – “Why would you want it taken off, unless you were up to something…” This is in agreement with the British Home Office’s opinion that “persons who do not go on to commit an offence have no reason to fear the retention of the information”.

Both these articles referred to an earlier publication written by Prainsack and Kitzberger in 2009 where 26 convicted offenders in Austria were interviewed. All but two of the offenders viewed national DNA databases in a positive light. Their reasons included: (1) It helped to catch serious offenders such as rapists, murderers and paedophiles (2) They helped prove innocence (3) They forced police to carry out proper investigations and not to just arrest people who had previously committed similar offences. This study showed that many of those interviewed concurred with the fact that if they had committed an offence then they should be held accountable and that they deserved to be on the database– “If somebody does something, then they should bear the consequences”.

The results of these studies highlight the need to determine what all sectors of the public, including those already on a database, think about what profiles should be entered onto a database and when if ever that information should be removed. Food for thought …….what do you think?

Carolyn

Meet some of our team

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

We recently appointed another trainer and assistant in the KZN area, Grant Godsmark, a  young and dynamic Genetic Hons graduate from UCT, with a passion for DNA. This weeks blog entry has been written by Grant and looks at the reasons why he thinks we urgently need DNA

Grant Godsmark at a Training Workshop

Grant Godsmark at a Training Workshop

legislation in this country. As it stands, the latest information indicates that the Portfolio Committee’s “study tour” of the UK and Canadian DNA labs  is scheduled for the 24th of June 2011 to the 10th of July 2011. That is a total of 15 days. Wow. Is that not a long time to spend viewing two labs? How do you feel about this? Read how we feel! Let us know what you think, by posting a comment or writing on our Facebook page.

This is what one reader had to say:

“I am working for a Rape Centre, every day I see the people these ministers are suppose to protect. Small children are raped by serial rapist who roam the streets and cannot be arrested or sentenced because the DNA project does not get the urgent attention it needs!!! Why is everything in this great country of us backwards, is money and freedom to do as they wish so important to our leaders. PLEASE wake up and start looking after the innocent!!!!”

Here is what Grant has to say:

Is South Africa missing out on the benefits of using DNA to help apprehend criminals?

We have all watched an episode of CSI, or other detective programs, and so we know how important evidence left at the crime scene can be. In every episode the criminal is caught with the help of evidence (often DNA) left at the scene of the crime. Although things happen really fast on TV….. all the forensic techniques that are shown are actually used by police to help solve crime. In reality DNA profiling is successfully used every day by police forces all over the world to apprehend and convict criminals. So you may be wondering: What are we doing in South Africa?

Well, you will be pleased to know that we have state of the art equipment that is used to analyze DNA evidence found at crime scenes. This equipment includes the world’s first fully automated system that can be used for high volume forensic DNA analysis.  But despite access to this amazing technology, South Africa is not maximizing the use of DNA as a forensic tool. One reason for this is that we do not have the necessary legislation to allow our police force to use the technology to its full potential. In South Africa current legislation does not allow for all people arrested, or convicted of a crime to have their DNA profile placed on the National DNA Database of South Africa (NDDSA). If this was to happen then when police do not have a suspect, and the perpetrator is been previously arrested or convicted, a comparison between the crime scene profile and profiles on the database may provide police with a suspect. Amendments to the current legislation have been proposed which will allow for all evidence collected at crime scenes to be compared to the database and possible suspects to be identified. Click here for more details.

This system is currently being used in USA, UK and Europe with great results. In the UK, in 70% of cases where DNA profiles from crime scene evidence are loaded onto the database, there is a match with someone already on the database. This means that when police have no suspect they are given a lead in the case just by searching the database. Imagine how effective this would be in South Africa where most of our criminals have committed many crimes – we just need to get them on the database once!

Unfortunately, the parliamentary committee tasked with considering the changes in legislation has been dragging their heels since 2009. In July they plan on going on a fact finding mission to the UK and Canada before considering implementing this legislation. This despite the fact that DNA databases have been effectively used by these countries since 1995. So…..why should South Africans, who live with some of the highest crime rates in the world, not be able to benefit from this incredible technology? The reason is simply that a small piece of legislation is the final hurdle keeping us from convicting the people responsible for crimes like murder and rape in South Africa. We all need to fight for this legislation to be passed as soon as possible so that we can make criminals accountable for their actions. We need everyone to support the proposed changes in legislation and to put pressure onto the committee to pass the amendment. All South Africans will then be able to breathe a little easier knowing that if something happens to our loved ones, the SAPS will finally be able to do the best they can to apprehend these criminals.

Written by Grant Godsmark

Database for DNA key to full sex crime law

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The below article makes for interesting reading insofar as demonstrating the power of a DNA database as well as the implications of not having proper legislation in place – it illustrates that an expanded DNA Database strengthens criminal investigations which in turn provides a safer environment, safeguards the rights of law-abiding citizens and improves trial efficiency. This not only brings comfort to victims and their families, and promotes fairness and justice but also clears innocent suspects and reduces miscarriages of justice.. . What is most poignant is the writer’s observation that long documentation processes, poor administrative efficiency and bureaucracy which have prevented the enactment of proper DNA legislation, are tantamount to being “accomplices” to the murder of the young girl in this story, and many more to come.

How tragic too, that as I write this, I feel that I am preaching to the converted (ie the people who read this blog), when the real ‘accomplices’ in South Africa hold us and future victims to ransom by their lack of efficiency, bureaucracy and ignorance in failing to pass the DNA legislation so desperately needed in SA.

Database for DNA key to full sex crime law

By Sandy Yeh

A junior-high school girl in Yunlin County was recently raped and murdered. A repeat sex offender who had just been released on parole is suspected of committing these acts. As a result of the ensuing public anger, we may finally have a chance to break through the blockade of so-called “human rights groups” that are opposed to amending the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act. If approved, judges will be able to follow the example of Megan’s Law in the US and decide to publish the names and photos of repeat sexual offenders as well as the nature of their crime in order to avoid similar tragedies.

Following several child assault crimes that have highlighted the flaws of the act and the rise of the “White Rose” movement in September last year, the legislature is now expected to pass the amendment. Still, the information and monitoring of sex offenders alone will not be enough to prevent them from committing crimes again. Nor will they put an end to sex assault crimes. Just as the “protection order” in the Domestic Violence Prevention Act will not prevent victims of domestic violence from being abused, complementary measures are required. In this case, the most important measure is building a DNA database on sex offenders.

A US newspaper recently reported a similar sexual assault case that happened in Maryland in July 2003, though the suspect was only arrested in Wisconsin years later. Just like the Taiwanese girl, the victim was 13 years old at the time of the crime. The difference is that she survived and the police could take complete samples of the suspect’s DNA. It took some time, but they were able to make a breakthrough seven years later thanks to the strengthening of the DNA database as a result of legislative amendments. When a suspect was arrested for selling marijuana and ordered to submit a DNA sample, a match was found.

In 1994, the US passed the DNA Identification Act to provide legal grounds for DNA collection. In 2000, it passed the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act, authorizing the FBI to integrate DNA databases in different US states and organizations, including a DNA database of officially convicted criminals, missing people and their families, and unidentified corpses. In 2005, it passed the DNA Fingerprint Act, integrating criminals’ DNA and fingerprint data. Last year, it passed the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act to impose DNA collection on all suspects except in the case of a few misdemeanors. By gradually enhancing the laws, the US’ DNA database grew from 460,000 items in 2000 to 2.03 million in 2004 and 8.64 million last year. The number of cases solved as a result has increased more than 100-fold.

Katie Sepich, at the age of 22 was raped and murdered

Katie Sepich, at the age of 22 was raped and murdered

These results were achieved thanks to the US’ employment of modern technology. By strengthening its criminal investigation with the help of the expanded database, the US can now provide a safer environment, safeguard the rights of law-abiding citizens and improve trial efficiency. This brings comfort to victims and their families, and promotes fairness and justice. Furthermore, the strengthened DNA database and improved matching could clear innocent suspects and reduce miscarriages of justice.

Just like the obstacles to the amendment of Taiwan’s Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act, the amendment of the DNA Sampling Regulations has been delayed since passing its first reading in the legislature in 2008. When the public says the long documentation process, poor administrative efficiency and bureaucracy were “accomplices” to the murder of the girl in Yunlin, one wonders if anyone has looked into whether the legislature is the reason why the law remains stalled.

‘Familial Searching’ – an explanation

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

“While the sins of the father should not be visited on the son, the sins of the son should not go unpunished because the sins of the father are ignored….”

We posted a poll on the website last week asking whether Familial DNA searching should be allowed in SA? [Familial Searching .i.e. a process by which an unidentified DNA profile is run through the state’s DNA data-bank looking not for an exact match but for a close match that would identify a family member of an unidentified perpetrator and could point in the direction of potential suspects.]

Notwithstanding the fact that only 2 people have voted so far, it has caused quite a lot of debate on Facebook! As such, I though that I should use this opportunity to open the debate further, as Familial Searching for criminal intelligence as well as the identification of unidentified bodies is being used in more and more countries throughout the world. It is however not without controversy, and whilst in some cases has been used to identify a previously unknown suspect of a violent crime, it has sparked some debate. This is not to say that the information presented here represents the views of The DNA Project – I am simply going to try and present the facts as objectively as possible and hopefully receive some constructive comment on the subject from some of you who read this blog.

In those countries where Familial Searching is allowed, it is important to remember that searches are only conducted on the National DNA Databanks which hold the profiles of previously convicted offenders, crime scene profiles and arrestees who have not yet been convicted.  Furthermore, a ‘hit’ when conducting a familial search,  does not mean that that person is the suspect – it is simply an investigative lead which may lead the police to the actual suspect who committed the crime. A DNA  Database for Criminal Intelligence is NOT a population database – in other words it is a database containing profiles of crime scene samples and convicted offenders & arrestees and not the general population. A familial search on a National DNA Database will therefore extend the size and reach of the DNA database to effectively include the parents, children and siblings of the offenders and arrestees whose DNA profiles are already stored in databases.

“Familial searching” is being used in some countries for efficient identification of possible crime suspects when traditional investigative efforts fail. Crime laboratories benefit from searching not just for perfect matches, but also for close ones, when trying to connect DNA from unsolved crimes to the DNA of known offenders whose DNA profiles are held in a national database. Because relatives share common DNA profiles, close matches can implicate family members as possible crime suspects.

As experience with familial searching increases, more and more countries will probably embrace the technique. And as they do, so does the need to create policies that will ensure both efficiency and accuracy in case selection, statistical thresholds and follow-up testing and investigation.

For those of you who would like to read more on the subject, the following report compiled by Sophie Rushton (July 2010) for the Australian & New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency looks at both the positive and negative aspect of Familial Searching and Predictive DNA Testing for Forensic Purposes: Report Familial Searching and Predictive DNA Testing 2010.

Case Solved – The Bloody Brick: Craig Harman

This was the first familial search in Great Britain in which the suspect was apprehended and convicted of the crime. In the early morning hours on March 21, 2003, Mr. Michael Little, a 53-year-old truck driver, was driving his truck on a highway in Surrey, when he drove beneath an overpass. A brick was thrown from the overpass and crashed through his windshield. It hit Mr. Little in his chest and caused fatal damage to the heart. Before Mr. Little died, he was able to bring his truck to a stop on the side of the road.

Michael Little

Law enforcement analyzed the blood on the brick and found two DNA profiles, one of Mr. Little and one of another unknown individual. That evening, before the brick was thrown from the overpass, a car had been burglarized in the same town. The burglar could not get the car started and he left his blood at the scene.

The police were able to extract a full DNA profile and it matched the DNA profile on the brick which killed Mr. Little. The profile was run through the DNA Database, but no match was found.

However, the DNA analysis established that the offender was caucasian. A police profiler looked at the details of the crime, and suggested that he was under the age of 35. Also, Surrey police believed the killer lived locally and so authorities performed a DNA dragnet screen involving 350 people from the surrounding area who volunteered to give samples. But still no match was found.

Law enforcement then decided to perform a familial search of white males under the age of 35 living in Surrey or Hampshire. Twenty five people with similar DNA were located including a relative of the suspect whose DNA matched 16 of 20 DNA markers. They interviewed the relative and discovered that he had a 19-year-old brother, Craig Harman, who lived where the crime had occurred. Harman gave his DNA voluntarily and confessed. In April, 2004, Craig Harman pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 6 years.

Case where Familial Searching was used in the USA: It was an unfinished slice of pizza that led to the identification of Lonnie David Franklin Jr. as the prime suspect in the Grim Sleeper murder investigation. But the pizza was just the final clue leading to his arrest. The key break in the investigation, intermittently conducted over 25 years, came when investigators found a close — but not perfect — match between the DNA recovered at multiple crime scenes and a man being held in a California prison. Such a near-match strongly indicated that the person wanted by police was a close relative of the man in prison, and police soon focused on the man’s father, Lonnie Franklin. They put him under surveillance, obtained his discarded pizza and found that his DNA matched that recovered at a Grim Sleeper crime scene.

Click here for more stories on cases solved by Familial Searching.

Vanessa

Forensic Science Service (UK) to be closed down

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

DNA profile in lab

The government-owned Forensic Science Service, which employs 1,600 people, is to be wound up – closing by 2012.

Crime Reduction Minister James Brokenshire said the Birmingham-based service was losing about £2m a month and could run out of money in January.

Its evidence was key to the arrest of serial killer Steve Wright and in the case of missing girl Shannon Matthews.

The Prospect union, representing 1,000 FSS professionals, said the decision made a “mockery” of the justice system.

Its deputy general secretary Mike Clancy said: “Cost will now determine justice in the UK. The government is putting its faith in an untested market to deliver forensic science at a time when it has never been more important to the detection of crime.”

The decision would “destroy a world-class body” that was envied by international police and lead to an over-emphasis in profits in the sector which could threaten the quality of the science, he added.

However, the FSS had faced increased private-sector competition for police contracts and Mr Brokenshire told the BBC this was enabling forces to achieve greater efficiency.

“They’re seeing better turnaround in terms of the way in which forensics are being processed,” he said.

In a statement, the FSS said spending cuts meant police forces had less money for forensics consultancy and were increasingly taking such work in-house.

It said it had raised such concerns to the Home Office and was “disappointed” that they had not been addressed before the winding-up decision was made.

In a written statement to MPs, Mr Brokenshire had said it was vital for the government to take “clear and decisive action” to sort out the FSS after it got into “serious financial difficulty”.
“The police have advised us that their spend on external forensic suppliers will continue to fall over the next few years as forces seek to maximise efficiencies in this area,” he said.

“We have therefore decided to support the wind-down of the FSS, transferring or selling off as much of its operations as possible.”

DNA evidence gathered by the FSS led to the arrest of Ipswich murderer Wright within days of the discovery of his fifth victim.

The company also provided toxicology evidence against Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan which helped ensure their conviction for kidnapping and drugging schoolgirl Shannon.

BBC legal affairs analyst Clive Coleman said the FSS had enjoyed significant successes and had a good reputation, despite one or two failures such as the Damilola Taylor murder inquiry where DNA evidence was initially missed.

He said private enterprise, which already made up 40% of the market, should expand to fill the gap left behind by the FSS.

However, there were concerns that commercial pressures might mean additional tests and analysis were no longer done.

“There is a concern from some lawyers that perhaps if you’re simply looking at the bottom line… critical evidence might not come to light and be produced in court,” he added.

The FSS has been government-owned since 2005.

Scotland is unaffected by the announcement, as the Scottish Police Services Authority is responsible, while Nothern Ireland has its own agency, Forensic Science Northern Ireland.

Article courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11989225

Meeting the new General of the FSL

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

I was in Johannesburg and Pretoria today where I met with two very interesting and influential people – one government, one private.

The first, General Phahlane, is the newly appointed head of the Forensic Science Lab [which, remember, consists of 6 different forensic divisions, only one of which is Biology (DNA)]. The General has taken over from the former Div. Commissioner, Piet du Toit and has a very different managerial style to his predecessor. For one, he promotes opens lines of communications, and whilst I sense that he is definitely not a man to be crossed, he encourages support and input so long as it is constructive. The General acknowledges that the current system is far from perfect, however, he is tackling the issues head on and apparently, transparently, and from all accounts runs a very tight ship too. His random appearance within the lab at any given time, certainly ensures that the people working there are on the ball at all times, and I believe this approach has enabled him to boast substantial inroads into the DNA backlog,  that is constantly being raised as an issue. The General believes that NGO’s have a critical role to play in making fundamental changes in SA – more importantly, he supports our objectives and has a particular interest in the DNA Awareness campaign we have embarked upon throughout South Africa as he too understands how vital a part the preservation of crime scene evidence plays. His passion to eradicate crime  in SA is palpable, and I truly look forward to watching the changes I believe he is going to make in developing a strategy to expand the DNA Database in SA. It is abundantly clear that he comprehends and embraces the significant role a criminal intelligence database plays in SA as opposed to simply a DNA Database, and that more profiles = a more powerful database for crime detection and resolution, but ultimately prevention.

Vanessa Lynch with General Phahlane and Colonel Shezi at the Pretoria FSL

Vanessa Lynch with General Phahlane and Colonel Shezi at the Pretoria FSL

I was also greatly relieved to hear that Colonel Shezi, who attended the meeting, will be accompanying the Portfolio Committee on their overseas study tour to the UK and Canada next year. The General confirmed that at least her trip had been approved, so I am assuming from that information, that the remainder of the Committee members must too have a final agenda. This reinforces the statement made by MP, Annelize van Wyk on SABC1 (“It’s your Right”) last week, that the tour has been scheduled for late January 2011 and that deliberations on the DNA Bill would commence in February on their return; and… that she anticipated that it would be finalised by mid 2011. We won’t of course be holding our breath that they will stick to those timelines, as reviewing legislation is not a cut and dry affair, BUT, at least it is finally being publicly spoken about and is now openly on the agenda.

The other person I met was the CEO of the Security Industry Alliance. The concept of introducing DNA Awareness Training as an industry standard amongst all private security personnel was discussed. In other words, we host “Train the Trainer” workshops so that all security companies are enabled to incorporate DNA Awareness Training as part of their standard crime scene management training. I am putting together a proposal this week which will formulate a plan to incorporate this type of awareness from the top down. This is very exciting, as it may well mean, that DNA Awareness becomes part and parcel of all first responding officers’ training — again, it underlies the objective we are very passionate about — and that is that you only have a limited opportunity to preserve crime scene evidence, without which all the laws in the land and fancy labs are rendered meaningless.

Let’s hope that our simple acronym DNA CSI becomes as well known in SA as Coca Cola!

Vanessa

Feedback from Interpol DNA User’s Conference

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

This time last week I was sitting at the Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France listening to the Chief of the USA FBI CODIS Unit talk about International DNA Exchange methods. This was only one of approximately 35 fascinating presentations delivered by representatives from over 50 countries. As you may well imagine, participating in a conference of this magnitude was extraordinary, and the value of being able to interact with the other representatives: priceless. A special mention of thanks needs to go to our generous sponsor, The Open Society Foundation for South Africa, which enabled us to attend this incredible conference.

Members of the Interpol DNA Monitoring Expert Group at the Conference

The keynote speaker was a highly respected Australian Forensic Scientist by the name of Dr Simon Walsh. Dr Walsh is the Co-ordinator of the Australian DNA Database who spoke about, amongst other topics, ‘New Technologies & Techniques in the 21st Century use of DNA‘. We heard about what he termed “the triumvirate of interests” which is the critical interplay between the police,  forensic scientists and the justice system. If you absent one of these 3 critical components when trying to implement a DNA Criminal Intelligence Database, the success of any DNA Database will fail to reach its expected outcome. This needs to be considered in great detail in a country such as South Africa where both our justice system and SAPS are fraught with problems. These challenges however are not unique to South Africa, and the way in which other countries have dealt with this, is by the implementation of a DNA Expansion Board or body of people, represented by the various departments as well as ethicists and parliamentarians and any other group relevant to that administration who collectively oversee the development of the DNA Database. I have spoken about this type of overseeing body on many occasions in the past and still believe that this approach would work well in South Africa, which in fact has the benefit of an already established DNA database as well as a functional forensic laboratory. Whether the Portfolio Committee reviewing our current legislation recognises this critical requirement however, is yet to be seen….

Carolyn and I arriving at Interpol Headquarters on the first day of the Conference

On a more complex level, and probably more relevant to countries such as the UK, Australia and the USA who have developed and utilised their DNA Databases successfully as criminal intelligence tools, Dr Walsh’s presentation went further to explore an inferential model for DNA database performance using data from major national DNA database programs. The parameters that optimise desirable database outputs (matches) were isolated and discussed, as was his approach for maximizing financial efficiency and minimizing ethical impact brought about by the successful implementation of DNA databases. Dr Walsh’s research takes important steps toward identifying measures of performance for forensic DNA database operations and should you wish to know more about his formulas he has developed to measure DNA Database outcomes, feel free to email me at info@dnaproject.co.za and I will send you the paper he has recently written on this subject.

What struck me most at the conference was the extent to which the majority of the countries government’s represented at the conference, were willing to put in whatever resources were required to establish and maximise the effectiveness of their respective DNA databases. It was also sobering to see how seriously they took crime and in some countries a stolen car was considered to be headline news and worthy of 24/7 resources to catch the perpetrator. You can just imagine the reaction that followed my presentation where I described the current situation in South Africa, spoke about my experience when my father was murdered and ended off the presentation with the VUKA ad which highlights the severity of crime in our country. To say that the audience was left in stunned silence at the end of my presentation, is perhaps an

Vanessa Lynch presenting at the Interpol DNA Conference

understatement. I think we all know how de-sensitized we are to crime in South Africa, but when people came up to me afterwards and told me they had literally choked-up during my presentation, I realised how far removed we really are and how dangerous this can be as it moves us into a place of acceptance of an absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable situation. And people kept asking me – but WHY doesn’t your government do something about this and WHY is it taking so long to pass this legislation which will convert all those unprocessed rape kits I had shown them, into a DNA profile which may lead the CSI’s to the perpetrator to STOP them from re-offending. And the best question: but WHY doesn’t your government or your parliamentarians RESPECT these victims and future victims of crime enough in your country to do something about this? Yes, WHY indeed?

Carolyn and Vanessa in the Interpol Headquarter's Garden

On the other end of the scale we heard from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) how they  have been given 1 BILLION US$ to implement a population database in their region – their crime rate, I recall, is something in the region of 950 reported crimes over 10 years?! The reason – to prevent future crime from occurring! Whilst this is not a realistic option in most parts of the world, it sparked serious debate amongst the audience in respect of the value and ethical considerations a population database would bring about. For those not familiar with the term ‘population database’, it simply means that instead of focusing on putting the criminal population on the DNA database, it puts the entire country’s DNA profiles on the database which creates a larger reference pool for matching purposes when a crime occurs and a DNA profile is uplifted from a crime scene. Theirs is going to be the first population database in the world, and what I found most significant was that legislation was not listed as a ‘requirement’ for its implementation! This is because, and I quote, “Legislation will be taken care of by the Minister of Interior”! No questions asked.

We thoroughly enjoyed listening to some fascinating case studies presented by different countries over the course of the 3 days, all of which obviously showed how DNA was used to track the perpetrator of the crime, and in some cases, from as far back as the early 1970’s and throughout the world using Interpol’s International DNA Database.

We were also shown a very exciting new website called the  “Forensic DNA World Map Project “. The World Map Project provides forensic scientists, criminal justice professionals and lawmakers with access to the policy, legislative, legal and technical knowledge-base of the countries throughout the world that have operational DNA database programs.  It is a free service but is limited to those individuals pursuing the information for the purpose of developing and refining forensic DNA policy.  One can apply for a password and if given, those Users may request additional country-specific information, such as enabling legislation, DNA database reports, presentations, statistical data, technical standards and media.  The WMP can also connect users with forensic DNA databasing leaders throughout the world.  I am going to suggest to our Parliamentary Researcher that she apply for a password to access this database and that she disseminate same to members of our Portfolio Committee – this is probably what they really need to look at to inform themselves of  International Best Practice (IBP) – in other words, an armchair tour of the World’s DNA Policies may be all they need to learn the most about how this technology is being implemented internationally and the issues and challenges each of those countries has had to deal with!! I have looked at the site and it is arguably one of the most informative portals when it comes to looking at IBP in this arena.

There was also a lot of discussion around familial searching, which is used mostly for DVI (Disaster Victim Identification) but in a more regulated way, to establish a link to the perpetrator when they pick up a familial link on the DNA database between a crime stain and a profile which already exists on the database. Judge Arthur Tompkins presented some very sound and objective arguments on both the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of familial searching. Having listened to these discussions I think it would be prudent for South Africa to consider inserting a provision in our new DNA legislation to regulate this area of the database.

Judge Tompkins also provided us with very valuable insight into the lessons learned from the outcome of the contentious S & Marper cases which reached the European Human Rights Courts. I so wished even ONE member of our Portfolio Committee could have been there to participate in these discussions, as they have stated on more than one occasion that they are considering the outcome of this case in the review of our legislation.  This case you may recall, centres around the retention of ‘innocent’ profiles on the database where the person is subsequently acquitted or the case is dropped. What you may find interesting, is that “S” is a person named Smith who was a minor at the time of his DNA profile being loaded onto the database. Smith was not subsequently convicted. But how ironic is this: Smith was recently linked to a crime he was found guilty of committing – how? Because his DNA profile found on the crime scene matched his ‘innocent’ profile on the database….

Carolyn and I left the Interpol Headquarters last Friday with our heads full of new information and new ideas; new friends and allies and more importantly renewed motivation. We received such wonderful support for the work we are doing in South Africa – everyone found it completely unique (and not surprisingly, somewhat strange!) that a non-government organisation was necessary in a country like South Africa where we provide DNA awareness, grass roots training, skills development and most importantly a public voice to try and convince the relevant governmental powers of the value of a criminal intelligence DNA database. Be that as it may, we will continue with our mission to ‘fight crime with science’, and whilst we are not advocating that this is the ‘silver bullet’ to resolve crime, it certainly remains a mystery as to why South Africa has not leapt at the opportunity to more fully use this phenomenal technology where accountability for crime has not yet been achieved.

Should you wish to know anything further about the conference, feel free to email me on info@dnaproject.co.za

Vanessa

Processing Burglary Scenes for DNA

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Read below a very Interesting Article that was published in the latest Evidence Technology Magazine:

Opinion: Processing Burglary Scenes for DNA
Written by Ralph Barfield
Processing Burglary Scenes for DNA:
Too Expensive for Many Agencies?

Many law-enforcement agency chief executives and managers believe they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Most feel pressured to make tough choices on where to expend their limited resources. Too often, in an effort to save money, agencies are not processing burglaries due to the sheer volume of incidents and the drain on manpower.

Crime-scene processing is a normal function of a law-enforcement agency’s responsibility. A 2008 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study report, “The DNA Field Experiment,” pointed out clearly the effective results of recovering and processing DNA from burglary scenes. Every law-enforcement chief executive and manager should read the study and analyze the results. The study should be an encouragement to all agencies to aggressively process burglary scenes—especially for DNA.

Some chief executives are quick to point out they simply cannot afford to use this new technology. This is an indefensible position for any agency to take and offer the community. This argument is heard from agencies of all sizes and permeates all areas of law enforcement. What is actually occurring is a lack of interest and desire to enable an agency to effectively search crime scenes for DNA evidence. If the agency is set up to process routine burglaries, then the next logical step is processing for DNA. This requires a minimal amount of additional supplies. It will also require some additional specialized training in DNA recovery, obtaining control samples, storage, and laboratory submissions. This training is neither lengthy nor expensive! There is a higher cost to be paid by small and medium size agencies that make little or no effort to aggressively process crime scenes for DNA, especially burglaries.

As forensic hype in popular media begins to wane, many agencies have been quietly abandoning the processing burglaries and some never began processing burglaries to begin with. Between 1999 and 2003, a mid-sized Virginia agency proved beyond all doubt it was possible to effectively and aggressively process crime scenes for DNA. At the time, they were operating on limited resources. What they did have were crime-scene investigators, officers, supervisors, and managers that bought into the new DNA-processing program.

Some agencies honestly believe they need expensive forensic equipment and highly trained forensic specialists—“as seen on TV”—to recover DNA. In some cases that may be true. However, the majority of the time that is simply not the case. The routine day-to-day cases that small and mid-sized agencies generally face are larceny, burglary, and auto theft.

The key elements are training, knowledge, and aggressiveness in the approach to recovering DNA from crime scenes. Some managers have been heard to say, “We’ll just call the state if we have one of those cases.” The problem with this line of reasoning is that state and federal agencies are stretched to the financial breaking point. Smaller agencies can and should take more responsibility for processing their own routine, day-to-day scenes for DNA.

Four basics are needed in most cases: 1) training; 2) collection and packaging materials; 3) desire; 4) common sense. Assessing what suspects may have done at the scene can be very effective. Determinations such as How did he get in? or What did he touch, eat, drink or leave behind? can yield valuable DNA evidence. Teaching crime-scene investigators to work quickly and effectively can pay huge dividends in costs. However, as the 2008 NIJ DNA Field Experiment revealed, regular police officers can just as effectively collect DNA evidence as crime-scene investigators. The key is a basic four- to eight-hour basic training class on identification, documentation, and collection of suspected DNA evidence. All agency personnel, including supervisors and managers, should receive the training. The steps are not complicated and the results can be tremendous.

Normally, agencies get one opportunity to process a scene or collect a vital piece of evidence. Equipping all vehicles with latex gloves, paper envelopes, paper bags, sterile cotton swabs, collection boxes for the cotton swabs, and perhaps small amounts of distilled water is all that is needed.

A mid-sized Virginia agency had patrol officers, detectives, sergeants, and lieutenants who collected items on their own initiative. This later proved critical because they knew what to do in those situations where the items with potential DNA could have been lost or destroyed.

Here’s an example: A female police patrol sergeant who had received training on potential DNA identification and collection responded to the foot pursuit of two armed robbery suspects in a heavily traveled downtown area. While traveling the escape route, she spotted a ski mask matching the description worn by one of the suspects. She immediately stopped, obtained a clean paper bag, and collected the ski mask. Later, DNA analysis of the mask identified two of the suspects involved in a string of armed robberies in the downtown area. Both suspects were later convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Supervisors and managers should not be expected to routinely process crime scenes. However, as anyone with extensive street experience knows, those situations can and will occur in which it is critical that they act to prevent the loss of valuable evidence.

The DNA databases available to agencies nationwide offer an opportunity to identify suspects previously unknown to law enforcement. A mid-sized agency was amazed at the number of suspects identified as the state’s DNA database of known offenders continued to grow. The results of identifications in burglaries, sexual assaults, homicides, and auto thefts convinced even the most critical skeptics in the agency. Granted, initially Virginia had the first and one of the largest DNA databases in the country, but numerous states have steadily grown their databases and many have passed Virginia’s volume. The increase of blind DNA database hits has resulted from the education of law-enforcement management and personnel, improved training on DNA collection, states adding additional known and suspected felons, and laboratory improvements in DNA processing.

These tough financial times will improve in the future. Those agencies that have processed scenes for DNA will reap the benefits when state laboratories begin lifting current submission restrictions due to manpower cutbacks.

The cost of failing to aggressively process burglary scenes for potential DNA is far greater than the cost of training and supplies. The citizens in many communities often display amazement and frustration with small agencies’ obvious lack of interest in processing crime scenes. Criminals in too many jurisdictions are getting a free pass from law enforcement agencies. The agency must put forth at least a limited effort if nothing else. The agency’s personnel are admitting defeat in combating the continual problem of burglary. This is a major hurdle many small agencies face. The issue is psychological, and until addressed, this will not improve. Officers and management share the responsibility of changing an agency’s attitude toward processing burglaries.

The cost of not processing burglaries shows up in a continual higher rate of reported incidents. Often the arrest of one or more burglars will have an immediate impact. Many burglars ply their trade in strings of thefts and will often be responsible for numerous incidents. Through the use of state DNA databases, previously unknown burglars from other states or jurisdiction have been identified. As more states enter juveniles into DNA databases, agencies are surprised by the number involved in burglary, larceny, and auto theft. By processing burglaries for DNA, agencies will often inadvertently identify suspects involved in numerous and more violent crimes such as rape, robbery, or murder.

Laboratories play a major role in cooperation with local law-enforcement agencies in analysis of submitted potential DNA items of evidence. The list of items from which laboratories can now recover DNA is almost limitless. Many laboratories have begun requiring agencies already effective in DNA collection to initially sift through items and submit those items of the highest probative value. This requires officers to become well-versed and knowledgeable on the laboratory’s DNA capabilities. Someone within the agency must be ready and willing to communicate openly with laboratory examiners. That person then becomes essential to educating and training agency personnel on updates, new techniques, requirements, policies, and procedural changes.

Burglary is sometimes referred to as the training ground for criminals and crime-scene investigators. Just as it often provides a gateway to other more serious crimes for the criminals, burglary aslo provides for the police officer and investigator the a high level of scene and evidence diversity in its sheer volume.

Law-enforcement agencies often fail to realize that criminal elements are watching and are aware of how much or how little processing is conducted. Agencies that neglect to utilize DNA and fingerprint processing of burglaries, larcenies, and auto theft are actually helping the criminals. This can become a serious problem in resort and college communities. Simply relying on old investigative techniques is occurring in amazing volumes much too often in a period of improved forensic technology.

Those small and medium size agencies that currently process scenes for DNA must be commended. Communities have a right to expect their law-enforcement agency to take the necessary steps enabling them to properly document, collect, and submit physical evidence that could identify criminals and protect their citizens.

The actual cost of processing DNA must be considered—no one disputes that. However, the cost of training, equipment, and supplies is not excessive. It can be done without enlarging facilities, hiring additional personnel, or purchasing expensive equipment. Agency size is not a deterrent to effectiveness. Current officers or civilians can be trained in the proper methods of DNA processing. The majority of law-enforcement agencies in the United States are small; yet they, mid-sized, and large agencies are reluctant to embrace this effective technology.

There are some bright spots among law-enforcement agencies. However, much remains to be done. Contrary to what many in law-enforcement management contend, the cost of not processing burglaries for DNA is far greater than the cost of conducting the processing.

About the Author

Detective Sergeant Ralph Barfield served with the Charlottesville (Virginia) Police Department for 27 years, the last ten as Forensic Unit Supervisor. The unit was recognized in 2003 by the National Institute of Justice for their success with DNA crime scene processing, DNA identification & elimination and use of DNA Data Banks. The unit’s success with DNA was featured twice on CBS and on NPR. He has instructed police officers across the country and taught at local colleges. He is also an author, writing the article “Small Police Department Forensics and DNA”. He can be reached at: rbarf@aol.com