DNA Database Matches 200 Suspects With Evidence at Crime Scenes

The police's new DNA database allowed it to find more than 200 matches between suspects and evidence collected at crimes scenes, according to data the force gave a Knesset subcommittee yesterday.

But it is not clear how many times this DNA evidence led to convictions - data that Knesset members asked the police to provide in their next report. There was also some criticism that police can take DNA samples from suspects even if no evidence at the crime scene provides a DNA sample to match it with.

New regulations that took effect at the beginning of 2007 enabled the police to take DNA samples from suspects and store them in a database. The samples can be taken via a strand of hair, a cheek swab or a drop of blood.

However, samples can only be taken in the case of serious crimes, which include murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, car theft, arson, security offenses and drug trafficking. One of the main goals of the database is to locate serial offenders.

At yesterday's meeting of a subcommittee of the Knesset Constitution Committee, police representatives reported that from the start of 2007 through the beginning of this week, some 26,000 DNA samples were entered into the database. Some 22,000 genetic profiles of suspects were derived from these samples. This resulted in 209 matches between a suspect's DNA and DNA gathered at a crime scene.

Police said they seek to add some 20,000 genetic profiles to the database every year. Each profile costs around NIS 200. For this year, the police are on track to meet their target: Some 7,800 profiles have been added to the database since the start of the year. While most of the samples are from suspects, police have also taken samples from 380 convicts. By law, they can collect a sample from anyone convicted of one of the offenses enumerated in the law, but in practice, they did so for the first time only in December 2007, when they collected samples from inmates.

This means that some prisoners may have been released over the past year without their genetic profiles being taken, even though, given the high recidivism rate among convicts, prisoners had been defined as a key target population for the database.