Database of DNA helps to solve 215 crimes

A total of 215 previously outstanding crimes have been solved in the first six months of the operation of the DNA database.

Database of DNA helps to solve 215 crimes

The cases include thefts, burglaries, sexual assaults, and false imprisonment.

A report compiled by Forensic Science Ireland, which has been obtained by the Irish Examiner, said that while it was still early days for the DNA database, the signs were positive that it will be “invaluable”.

Figures from FSI for the six months to May show:

  • More than 4,500 DNA samples have been taken and stored in the DNA database;
  • In excess of 2,500 of these are samples from individuals — suspects and convicted criminals;
  • More than 2,000 samples have been taken from crime scenes.

“In total, up to the end of May, 215 cases that were previously unsolved are now solved,” said the report.

The 2,500-plus samples of individuals include around 1,760 taken by gardaí of suspects and around 740 taken by prison officers of convicted criminals.

“FSI have recorded over 130 incidences where an individual has been linked to a specific crime, ranging from burglary and theft through to more serious offences against the person such as sexual assault and false imprisonment,” the report said.

The findings demonstrate the benefits in relation to identifying repeat offenders.

“There have also been 25 ‘clusters’ recorded where an individual has been linked to several crimes,” the report said.

DNA Samples
DNA Samples

“For example, one individual has been linked to 13 burglaries, while another individual has been linked to seven burglaries, which reinforces Garda figures which show that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars.”

The tool has also been successful in other jurisdictions in identifying and tracking down serial rapists.

“Even though it is early days for the Irish DNA database, the signs are positive that it will be invaluable in the fight against ‘volume crime’ and has begun to assist in redressing the balance between those involved in the commission of serious crime and the investigators tasked with building criminal prosecution cases against them,” the report said.

The database, promised by successive governments since 2007, was officially launched by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last November.

FSI described the database as like a “computer bank” containing records of DNA profiles coming from two sources: DNA samples from crime scenes, and DNA samples from individuals.

When a crime scene profile is added, it is searched against DNA profiles from other crime scenes, which could indicate a link between the crimes.

It is also searched against DNA profiles of individuals and could provide a match.

Individual DNA profiles operate in a similar fashion.

When a profile is generated from an individual, such as someone arrested, it is searched against all other crime scene profiles.

A match may indicate that the individual may be a suspect for the crime.

The process is known as “speculative searching” and results can be sent back to gardaí for further investigation. The DNA database is operated within the current facilities of FSI, which have repeatedly been criticised as poor.

There have been failed promises by governments to build a new laboratory for more than 10 years.

The Capital Expenditure Programme, announced last September, resurrected the plans but said funding would not be available until 2019, with construction taking three years.

The FSI has criticised the timeframe.

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