500 Arrests Rely on Genetic Evidence

The Israel Police genetic database has produced 478 matches since its creation in early 2007, 347 of them last year, according to a report submitted recently by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Menachem Ben-Sasson.

The database currently contains nearly 41,000 DNA profiles. In its first year of operation, only 15,000 profiles were placed in the database, but last year, an additional 26,000 profiles were entered.

In order for a genetic database to be considered effective by international standards, it must contain the profiles of more than 5 percent of the country's population. For Israel, that would mean 360,000 genetic profiles. Chief Superintendent Ashira Zamir, who heads the DNA Databank Laboratory in the Israel Police Division of Identification and Forensic Science, has thus complained in the past that at the present collection rate, she will be retired before the database becomes effective.

Nevertheless, the database has already solved some cases.

During an investigation of the murder of attorney Anat Flinner, use of the DNA database led police to two different breakthroughs. First, it brought about the arrest of the 17-year-old boy who confessed to the murder two years ago. Second, it led to Eitan Farhi's conviction in two unrelated rape cases, after Farhi, a previously convicted rapist, voluntarily surrendered a DNA sample in order to prove his innocence of Flinner's murder. The Flinner case is thus considered a turning point in solving serious crimes in Israel.

The murder of 18-year-old Ma'ayan Ben Horin in January 2007 was solved soon after the database was created: A 17-year-old shepherd from the Galilee was arrested on DNA evidence and sentenced to life imprisonment for rape and sexual assault.

But police officials point out that the majority of the crimes solved thanks to the genetic database are not serious crimes such as rape and murder, but rather break-ins, robberies and car thefts.

Of the 478 genetic matches found through the database, 282 were matches between a genetic profile from a crime scene and an individual in the database, while 51 were matches between different crime scenes.

In 2008, the police took DNA samples from 6,000 convicted prisoners. By the end of the year, however, only about 3,000 of these profiles had been added to the database.

Criminal suspects represent the main source of the database's profiles. Individuals suspected of committing any of a long list of offenses are required by law to provide a DNA sample to the police. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel views this as a violation of human rights.