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Databases of Their Own

Dozens of local police departments in the US have created their own DNA databases, the Associated Press reports.

While police say this approach helps them solve cases more quickly by avoiding the backlogs that affect state and federal databases, critics say it also enables them to circumvent state and federal rules regarding what samples can be collected and held, the AP adds.

Public safety director Frederick Harran tells the AP that there's been a decrease in robberies and burglaries in Bensalem Township, Penn., because having a local database has enabled them to get results from DNA samples collected at robberies within a month, rather than in the 18 months it takes the state lab to process the samples. "If they are burglarizing and we don't get them identified in 18 to 24 months, they have two years to keep committing crimes," he adds.

However, local databases aren't subject to state or federal oversight and local agencies can determine what goes in them, the AP says. San Diego, it notes, is being sued for collecting samples from juveniles who were neither arrested for nor convicted of a crime.

"The local databases have very, very little regulations and very few limits, and the law just hasn't caught up to them," Jason Kreig, a law professor at the University of Arizona tells the AP. "Everything with the local DNA databases is skirting the spirit of the regulations."