Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Fast, But With Concerns

While rapid DNA analysis tools could help law enforcement more quickly identify suspects in crimes, the Los Angeles Times reports there are both privacy and technical concerns about the expanding use of the approach.

Such rapid DNA tools have been applied to, for instance, identify victims of the Santa Barbara boat fire earlier this month and the Camp Fire in northern California last year.

As part of a pilot Federal Bureau of Investigations program, rapid DNA analyzers have been placed in booking stations around the country, including in California. But their use, the LA Times reports has raised worries. One issue, it says, is that rapid DNA analyses work well on single-source DNA samples, but that trained forensic scientists are needed to interpret findings from mixed samples. Additionally, there are worries that the analysis might use an entire forensic sample, leaving none left for further analysis in a lab or by a defense team, it adds.

Additionally, the LA Times says there have been concerns about how the technology has been rolled out in certain locations. For instance, a Texas state board asked one rapid DNA company to halt its work there due to worries it was imperiling criminal cases, as local prosecutors were unaware of the project and had to "scramble" to inform defense attorneys.

But, Vincent Figarelli from Arizona's Crime Laboratory System tells the LA Times that Arizona has run some 400 cases on a rapid DNA system, all of which were replicated in a lab. "If you set up your program properly, you can use these instruments on crime scene samples — just not on all," he says.