UVA Professor Does Study on DNA in Solving Crime

Posted: Updated:

For the first time, a University of Virginia professor is taking a closer look at the power of DNA profiling. What Jennifer Doleac's study found may shed new light on just how useful DNA databases may be.

Police also know firsthand how vital they can be.

"It's very helpful in identifying perpetrators and developing suspects and also it's very vital in successful prosecution of said offenders," said Albemarle Police Detective Michael Wells.

The study found offenders whose DNA is stored in a database are nearly 24 percent more likely to be convicted of another crime within three years than those who are not profiled.

Doleac says these databases help reduce crime, especially in cases where DNA is likely to be collected. She suggests the higher probability of getting caught deters some from committing new crimes.

"A very obvious example of someone whose DNA we all would wish was in the system is the person who killed Morgan Harrington. We now have a DNA sample from that person apparently but we don't have an identity for that person. If that person had committed another crime before, another felony, that DNA would be there, that crime would be solved," said Lloyd Snook, NBC29's legal analyst.

The study also suggests preventing crimes through DNA databases are more cost-effective than alternatives like hiring more police, but some don't agree with that.

"Sometimes people think of it as an either/or. Either we put in another batch of police officers or we do DNA. The fact is DNA is a part of modern law enforcement; we will not do away with DNA," Snook said.

On paper it may be cheaper, but police say nothing can replace real officers on duty.

"The thing is it's a very efficient way of convicting people and proving your case however comparing that to officers on the street. I don't like the comparison because I think there's no comparison, there definitely need more officers on the street for safety of the public," Wells said.

Read the full study, "The Effects of DNA Databases on Crime."