A thief wearing gloves walks into a parking lot, perhaps using the cover of night, smashes a car window and takes what's inside the vehicle, all in a matter of minutes.
It's the general technique for many car burglaries, and thousands of them occur in Harris County every year. Besides shattered glass, often there's not much visible evidence left at the scene, leaving investigators with few clues to catch the culprits.
But sometimes it's what investigators cannot see that helps solve many of these types of crimes.For the last few years, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences aided area law enforcement in solving property crimes by testing evidence for "touch DNA" - microscopic skin cells containing DNA that naturally rub off when an object, like a car steering wheel, is touched. The technology can be used even if the suspect is wearing gloves because there's a high likelihood the skin cells were transferred onto the gloves when the perpetrator was slipping them on.
"It was a pretty incredible tool for us to have to identify some of these suspects," said Sgt. Terry Wilson, of the Harris County Sheriff's Office auto-theft division. "These (burglary of a motor vehicle) cases are some of the hardest cases for law enforcement to solve because there's almost never any eyewitnesses. There's very rarely any good evidence left behind, fingerprint evidence and things like that, and once we started recovering some of this DNA, it was pretty exciting there for a while."
New York state set to add all convict DNA to its database.
New York is poised to establish one of the most expansive DNA databases in the nation, requiring people convicted of everything from fare beating to first-degree murder to provide samples of their DNA to the state.
On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers were putting the finishing touches on a deal to establish a so-called all-crimes DNA database, a move that is supported by all of the state’s 62 district attorneys and 58 sheriffs, as well as 400 police chiefs. New York already collects DNA from convicted felons and some people convicted of misdemeanors, but prosecutors say collecting DNA from all people convicted of misdemeanors will help them identify suspects of more violent crimes, and, in some cases, exonerate people wrongly accused.
EFF reminds Court forced warrantless DNA collection violates the fourth amendment.
Are Police Building a Massive DNA Database?