The year that was…

As the year draws to a close, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on what we have done during the course of 2012 to further the aims and objectives of The DNA Project. We want to share this with you because The DNA Project is made up not only of our own team members, but of all those who support us – whether it be through volunteer work, funding, standing up to be counted or actually putting into practice what has been learned about crime scene preservation. We can and will continue to fight this together.

Thank you for all of your support!

Take care over the festive season and we look forward to reconnecting with you all in 2013.

with thanks

Vanessa Lynch & The DNA Project Team

* Our offices will be closed between the 17th December 2012 and the 7th January 2013.

Herewith a Summary of the work we have done during the course of 2012:

The DNA Project has worked tirelessly during the course of this last year to ensure that crime scene awareness is practiced not only by the general public, but all first on crime scene responders. A representative of the Forensic Science Services publicly thanked The DNA Project last week at an International Policing Summit for the work we have done and continue to do in creating crime scene awareness in South Africa. What was particularly exciting is that he further stated that they had noticed a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of DNA evidence being received at the Forensic Lab, which they attribute to the effectiveness of the work of the DNA Project in creating greater crime scene awareness and in highlighting the importance of not contaminating or destroying evidence left on a crime scene.  These inroads, coupled with the inclusion of the DNA Project in the process of progressing of the DNA Bill through Parliament, means that we will need to embark on an even greater awareness drive next year to keep up with the demand being placed on us in this critical arena. This will require the training of additional trainers, the purchasing of extra training equipment, the expansion of our workshops into other areas as well as the provision of more crime scene awareness material.

We also wish to continue with our media awareness drive which this year has generated over R7000 000 worth of advertising, at virtually no cost to us, thanks to the incredibly generous contributions of The Change a Life TrustFoxP2, Assegai Javelin, Africa Imagery as well as etv and DSTV and several publishing houses, all of which have provided us with funding as well as free and greatly discounted  services to enable us to create various media platforms to disseminate our crime scene awareness messages.

Our target of training 5000 first on crime scene responders during 2012, was exceeded, in fact almost doubled: we trained 9944 first on crime scene responders this year and have to date trained over 18 950 crime scene responders!

Vanessa Lynch and Carolyn Hancock in Richards Bay

Vanessa Lynch and Carolyn Hancock

Herewith is an excerpt from an email received by a SAPS trainee who attended one of our workshops in October 2012:
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you guys for the brilliant presentation the other day….
Historically police, very alarmingly experienced grave difficulty in fulfilling their roles at crime scenes mostly due to lack of updated training in this field of crime scene management… Most of the police officers whom I observed at your workshop on the 18th October was (sic) with me on the advanced crime scene management course presented by the division SAPS Training, Western Cape. The training however focused much on the preservation, access control and the collection of evidence and not much focus was on DNA itself as potential evidence and the likelihood of where else it could be obtained.
This was where your workshop enhanced the SAPS training and I thank you for that.
Madam I and I’m sure I speak for all of us that attended your workshop… “We salute you!”
Never give up and tackle this problem “One policeman, ambulance man, paramedic, fireman and security guard” at a time.”

Update on Legislation:
The Portfolio Committee for Police (PCP) finally accepted the DNA Policy on the 13th June 2012, which policy has underpinned the drafting of the second version of the DNA Bill. The final Bill has been drafted and is now expected to be adopted by Cabinet. The DNA Policy recommended that South Africa establish a DNA Database as a criminal intelligence tool, to aid in fighting crime and to enhance public confidence while taking into consideration peoples’ Constitutional rights. The DNA Project was extensively consulted in the drafting of the policy and we are extremely pleased that most of our recommendations were included.  Most significantly, the DNA Project was consulted to assist with the drafting of the final DNA Bill, which will now be adopted by Cabinet.  Various drafts of the DNA Bill were sent to the DNA Project for commentary, recommendations and amendments. It is anticipated that the Portfolio Committee for Police will begin reviewing the final Bill in early January 2013.   We are also delighted to report that a new regulation has just been passed allowing police officers, who have been appropriately trained by a medical practitioner, to collect buccal (cheek) swabs from arrestees and suspects for collection of reference DNA

Vanessa Lynch reading the DNA Policy as presented to the Committee

Vanessa Lynch reading the DNA Policy as presented to the Committee

samples. A meeting with the new Section Head of the National DNA Database in JHB last week, confirmed that a bid will be published in January 2013 calling for medical practitioners to apply to the forensic services to conduct group training in line with the provisions of this regulation.  The importance of this regulation is that when the DNA Bill is promulgated, making it mandatory for arrestees to have their DNA sample collected, they will already have trained police officials to take on this role.

The distribution of the DNA Awareness Materials developed by The DNA Project continued throughout 2012. All of our innovative training materials are distributed and provided free of charge to all trainees, namely:

1. Posters
A series of 5 posters have been designed and printed for use by organizations involved in crime scene response. These range from paramedic training institutions, to police stations, to schools, to security companies and CPF’s.  The uptake and enthusiasm in respect of recipients of these posters has exceeded our expectations in terms of the outreach and functional awareness they have created. We continue to see our posters in police stations, community centres, security offices, schools and science centres throughout South Africa.

We have also printed a number of Posters with the ‘She Asked for It’ message on it. These have enjoyed phenomenal success and have been distributed at seminars, exhibitions as well as requested by several Rape Crisis Centres to put on their walls for education purposes and to encourage victims to request DNA evidence to be collected.

2. Crime Scene Tape

In the first part of the year, we created and printed crime scene tape with the simple message:

Jes Foord and Carolyn Hancock (Director, DNA Project)

Jes Foord and Carolyn Hancock

The purpose of this tape was to provide a physical barrier between the crime scene and non-forensic, non-essential personnel to ensure that crime scenes are protected from contamination, destruction and disturbance for as long as possible in order for the Crime Scene Investigators to properly collect evidence left at the crime scene before it is destroyed.

As we cannot use official SAPS barrier tape, the first order of 1000 rolls of this ‘non-official’ barrier tape has already been distributed and we have just ordered a further 500 rolls. It is currently being used by CPF’s, paramedics, security companies and non-SAPS first responding officers in an effort to help SECURE the crime scene.

3. Leaflets
In the first part of the year we created a simple 4 page,  A5 leaflet to disseminate at awareness events, schools and larger awareness events and conferences. The information contained in our leaflet tell a simple story: The types of possible biological evidence which may be found at a crime scene are depicted and the “DNA CSI” message that crime scenes must be secured and nothing touched before the forensic personnel arrive is emphasized.

We have just completed and printed another set of leaflets, with the “She Asked for It” advert on the cover, which is focused on sexual assault. We have already distributed approximately 9000 of these leaflets and are preparing for another print run in 2013.

4. DNA Information Booklets
We have ordered and had delivered the 4th print run of our comprehensive 12 page DNA Awareness information booklet, with some variation following our Trainer’s workshop held in Cape Town.  The booklet provides a comprehensive overview of DNA profiling, sources of DNA, how DNA profiles can help identify a suspect and solve crimes, where evidence can be found on a crime scene, the possible location of DNA evidence at a crime scene, the risk of contamination of DNA evidence, how it should be stored and transported, how a rape victim can preserve DNA evidence as well as information about the DNA legislation, how people can help at a crime scene and our central message: ‘DNA CSI’.

5. Training Manuals
Our training manuals have just been updated and provide DNA Awareness Trainers with the basic information required to present a DNA Awareness Training Workshop. The primary target audience for these Training Manuals are first responders and any person involved in the crime scene investigation process who are not fully trained to collect forensic evidence. The comprehensive step by step instruction manual is a take home home manual given to new trainees free of charge in order that they may follow the clear instructions contained therein when hosting future workshops.

2 Responses to “The year that was…”

  1. […] the meantime, I continue to don my boxing gloves, and get on with our other pressing projects, most importantly the business of trying to create greater crime scene awareness in […]

  2. Katlego Motlafe says:

    I am very impressed by this initiative to fight crime using the best available resources. Crime has been a significant problem in our country with criminals running rampant as a result of lack of evidence, this certainly numbers the days of criminals who still thinks we need a human witness to convict them. I like the DNA project and think there are still greater thinks to come, hopefully see myself working as a DNA expert just to see the innocent exonerated and the guilty convicted.