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The 21st Century way to catch criminals

Posted in Crime Prevention June 19th, 2008 @ 10:06 am

Back in the “olden times,” police relied on fingerprints at a crime scene to show that a criminal was at a crime scene. Then the criminals got smart and started wearing gloves to cover up their fingerprints.

Now in 21st Century, crime fighting has leaped into the next generation of collecting fingerprints by using DNA samples to catch criminals. Recently, a man was connected to an armed robbery and arrested because of a piece of DNA evidence that was left at the crime scene.

Law enforcement agencies now use CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) to help catch criminals. CODIS has been gathering genetic samples from more than 1.6 million criminals, most taken after they entered prison. This database also includes more than 80,000 DNA samples gathered from unsolved crime scenes. Each month between 10,000 and 40,000 new samples are added by local authorities. The CODIS database was started in the early 1990s as a trial and expanded to 50 states in the late 1990s. Now, at least 170 local crime labs across the country can run DNA samples through the database and find matches.

One of the database’s more dramatic successes occurred in Houston when the FBI matched DNA evidence that helped to capture a bike-riding sexual predator who assaulted young boys at knifepoint. Police were at a standstill for months and parents were afraid to let their children outside to play. Once a DNA sample was available, CODIS found him and the police made the arrest.

Now for the first time, scientists are able to identify human DNA in dust. Although the amount recovered is tiny, further research could create a vital tool for investigators. They may be able to use the minuscule DNA collected from the dust at the crime scene to catch murderers and thieves by proving they were at a crime scene at a certain time.

Crime hasn’t changed in centuries, but now police have new techniques to help capture criminals.

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