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Expanding DNA Database Would Link More Criminals to Unsolved Crimes

DNA is a powerful crime-fighting tool that helps convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent and bring justice to victims. Though it has solved thousands of crimes since its inception in New York in 1999, we need to expand the DNA databank to require more criminals to provide DNA samples. Through expansion more offenders will be convicted of the crimes they committed, which will allow victims and their families peace of mind.

Between 1999 and 2006, the DNA databank linked 2,499 offenders to 3,916 crimes across the state. According to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice, as many as 60,000 more samples will be added to the databank within the next year, which will link more criminals to unsolved crimes. The DNA databank was expanded to include more offenders in 2004 and again in 2006, however, we can do more to protect the innocent by requiring that anyone arrested provide a DNA sample to be added to the bank. Currently, according to the Albany County District Attorney’s website, the New York State DNA databank holds more than 144,000 offender DNA profiles and 15,000 forensic evidence profiles. That means there are 15,000 unsolved cases in which DNA evidence has been recovered, but for which no perpetrator can be identified. If the databank were expanded, that would translate into potentially solving 15,000 cases.

Experts say most criminals do not specialize in one type of crime. Many rapists and violent offenders have been convicted of misdemeanors. In one such case, Raymon McGill, a career criminal found guilty of murder and rape, would have been caught sooner and never allowed to murder his second victim had he been required to provide a DNA sample upon conviction of lower-level crimes. The DNA databank currently excludes 54 percent of all convicted criminals. Countless other victims await justice for crimes committed against them. The state can help these victims with this simple sample, achieved by swabbing inside the mouth.

Legislation which I support (A4137) would require a DNA sample be collected from every person convicted of a crime, adjudicated as a youthful offender, or subject to registration as a sex offender in New York. Currently, if a known sex offender from another state moves into New York, they are not required to provide a DNA sample. Additionally, state law provides no penalty for the failure to provide a DNA sample. This legislation would change that as well.

Expanding the databank has already proven to increase the number of crimes solved. According to recent media reports, in 2007, the year after New York allowed DNA collection from all convicted felons, DNA “hits” increased by more than a third of the cumulative total from the prior 10 years. In 2008 and 2009, the cumulative total of “hits” rose to 7,980—300 percent increase in crime scene matches over the prior decade. With further expansion, more crimes would be solved.

Experience shows that many serious felony offenders have a long history of petty crimes. Including all offenses which currently require fingerprinting to the DNA database will allow earlier detection and prevention of future crimes. Through its passage, we could give innocent people a chance to go on with their lives and get violent offenders off the streets. It is time to change this to include all convicted of any type of crime to utilize the full potential of the DNA databank.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.