DNA Database Effectiveness in Crime Solving
Updated on April 17, 2024
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DNA Database Effectiveness in Crime Solving

DNA databases have become a powerful law enforcement tool in the fight against crime. They’ve been integral to identifying suspects, solving cold cases, and exonerating the wrongly convicted.

As the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations has grown, so has the importance of understanding the effectiveness of these databases in solving crimes. This article explores the latest statistics on DNA database effectiveness, highlighting their impact on crime rates, case resolution, and the criminal justice system.

Key Statistics on DNA Database Effectiveness

Deterrence and Reduction in Crime Rates

DNA databases have been shown to have a significant deterrent effect on crime, reducing both violent and property crime rates.

  • A study by Jennifer L. Doleac found that the growth in the average DNA database from 2000 to 2010 decreased violent crime by 7 to 45% and property crime by 5 to 35%
  • The same study showed that DNA profiling reduces the probability of future convictions by 17% for serious violence offenders and by 6% for serious property offenders
  • The marginal cost of preventing a serious offense using DNA profiling is under $600, making it a highly cost-effective tool for law enforcement compared to longer sentences ($7,600) or additional police officers ($26,300-62,500)
  • A 1% increase in DNA database size is estimated to reduce crime by 0.11%, indicating the significant impact of expanding these databases on crime prevention

CODIS and Crime Solving

The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which operates local, state, and national databases of DNA profiles, has been instrumental in solving crimes and aiding criminal investigations.

  • As of August 2023, the National DNA Index (NDIS), part of CODIS, contains over 16,532,335 offender profiles, 5,190,279 arrestee profiles, and 1,282,418 forensic profiles.
  • This extensive collection has produced over 674,405 hits, assisting in more than 656,893 investigations.
  • CODIS measures its success by the number of criminal investigations where it has added value to the investigative process, known as “Investigations Aided.” As of August 2023, CODIS has aided over 656,893 investigations.
  • The success of CODIS has led to the exoneration of 575 wrongly convicted individuals in the United States since 1989, including 35 who were on death row.

Types of Crimes Solved

DNA databases have been particularly effective in solving violent crimes, sexual assaults, and cold cases.

  • DNA evidence is often used in cases of murder, manslaughter, and aggravated assault, where biological material such as blood, semen, or saliva can link a suspect to the crime scene or victim
  • Sexual assault cases are one of the most common types of crimes where DNA databases have had a significant impact, with biological evidence collected from the victim or crime scene being used to identify perpetrators
  • DNA technology has been instrumental in solving cold cases, some of which had remained unsolved for decades, by allowing law enforcement to revisit old cases with new tools and identify suspects years after the crime was committed
  • In a study of 500 cases solved using genetic genealogy techniques, 67% were homicides, and 27% were sexual assaults, highlighting the effectiveness of DNA databases in solving violent crimes

Impact on Criminal Investigations

The impact of DNA databases on criminal investigations is further demonstrated by the number of hits and matches that have assisted in solving crimes.

  • Forensic profiles recovered from biological materials deposited at crime scenes have produced significant numbers of hits, assisting in a large number of cases
  • The transnational exchange of forensic DNA data has become a modern trend in fighting cross-border crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration, expanding the scope and effectiveness of DNA databases beyond national borders
  • Investigators have identified more suspects and had more cases accepted for prosecution when they analyzed and uploaded DNA evidence from crime scenes
  • In an experiment, the clearance rates for property crimes with DNA analysis were about three times higher than the overall clearance rate for property crimes in the police department, which was 10 to 12 percent during the years of the experiment

Conclusion

DNA databases have become an indispensable tool for law enforcement agencies, leading to the resolution of countless cases and contributing to a safer society.

As DNA technology continues to advance and databases expand, their impact on crime-solving is only expected to grow. However, it is essential to balance the benefits of these powerful tools with the need for privacy protection and ethical use of genetic information. Policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and the public must work together to ensure that DNA databases are used responsibly and in accordance with legal and ethical standards.

Ultimately, the success of DNA databases in solving crimes is a testament to the power of science and technology in the service of justice. By harnessing the potential of DNA evidence and leveraging the vast resources of these databases, we can continue to make significant strides in the fight against crime, bringing closure to victims, exonerating the innocent, and creating a safer world for all.

Updated on April 17, 2024

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9 sources cited
Updated on April 17, 2024
  1. Doleac, J. L.. “The effects of DNA databases on crime. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 9, 165-201.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2017.
  2. Doleac, J. L. “How do State DNA Database Laws Affect Crime?” Justice Tech Lab, 2018/ 
  3. CODIS – NDIS Statistics.” Federal Bureau of Investigation., 2023. 
  4. Federal DNA Database Unit.” Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2023. 
  5. Wickenheiser, Ray. “Expanding DNA database effectiveness.” Forensic Sciences Research, 7, 345-354, 2022.
  6. Tseloni, A, et al. “DNA retention after arrest: Balancing privacy interests and public protection. European Journal of Criminology, 8, 32-47.” SagePub, 2011.
  7. DNA Exonerations in the United States.” Innocence Project, 2023. 
  8. Using DNA to Solve Property Crimes.” U.S. Department of Justice, 2023. 
  9. Smith, Tyler. “Deterring crime with DNA databases.” American Economic Association, 2023.
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Content Contributor
Angela is a full-time digital content manager and editor for Know Your DNA. She also contributes freelance articles to several local and international websites when she has the time. She's always been a voracious believer in finding the truth and ensuring the science is sound.