Versatility in Criminal Offending and Its Effects on Coverage of the Convicted Offender Index: A Comparison of Models for Expanding a DNA Data Bank

Bruce Frederick, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services
James A. Gilmer, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services
David J. Van Alstyne, NYS Div. of Criminal Justice Services

The growth of DNA data banks among the states reflects the widespread acceptance of forensic DNA technology in criminal justice applications. This growth, coupled with their much touted ability in solving "cold cases", has given rise to issues involving the expansion and evaluation of DNA data banks.

The emerging trend among the states toward expanding DNA data banks is to increase the number of indexed offenders whose DNA profiles are available for matching against forensic DNA evidentiary samples. However, short of universal profiling, the utility in expanding the offender index to increase DNA data bank hit productivity depends on the extent to which indexed offenders specialize in-or are versatile in-committing crimes that yield forensic DNA evidence. The first paper examines the effect of versatility over the offending career in assessing the relative efficacy of the offender index to provide coverage of forensic DNA crimes. The common model of indexing offenders upon conviction of selected violent felonies is compared to progressive models of expansion that would index offenders for all felonies or for all crimes.

The performance of a DNA data bank is often assessed on an anecdotal basis involving "cold hits" that solved high-profile crimes. Little effort has been made to produce a more comprehensive evaluation that would track the case outcomes of DNA-hits through investigation, prosecution and adjudication in the criminal justice system. The second paper presents the results of a standard criminal justice case processing analysis, and discusses pathways for evaluating performance through the more purposeful integration of forensic and criminal justice official information systems.

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Updated 05/20/2006