Friday, May 12, 2006

Wider Use of DNA Lists Is Urged in Fighting Crime

NY Times
Published: May 12, 2006

A team of Harvard scientists is proposing that DNA databases contain enough information to identify many criminals whose DNA has not been catalogued through their kinship to people already listed. They say this could be done by a method developed to identify victims of the World Trade Center attacks and other disasters.


"Genetic surveillance would thus shift from the individual to the family," the scientists, Frederick R. Bieber and David Lazer, say in an article in today's issue of Science.

Kinship-based DNA searching is already used in Britain but has not become routine in the United States.

Such searches might be valuable in generating leads, Dr. Bieber said, because 46 percent of prisoners said they had close relatives who either were or had been incarcerated, a Department of Justice survey found in 1996.


Dr. Bieber said he expected possible objections to a method that places whole families under suspicion. But, he said, "we have a duty to victims to use any reasonable methods as long as there is a basis in law, and this would give investigators new leads in some cases."