Monday, December 7, 2009

DNA From Victims Required By Franklin Police To Recover Stolen Vehicles

By H. Nelson Goodson
December 7, 2009

Franklin - Over the weekend, a 36-year-old man and a 38-year- old woman who reported an SUV stolen to Franklin police in late October received an unusual request by a traffic officer. Officer Steven Horn working under authority of his supervisor requested the couple to submit to a DNA cotton cheek swab in order to recover the SUV and for use to identify ownership of items found in the vehicle.
The SUV was found last week in the North side on N. 16th St. in Milwaukee, after it had been reported stolen a month and a half ago. Someone spotted the SUV parked on the street with several parking citations and notified Milwaukee police who then had it towed to the Franklin police lot for recovered vehicles.
The 36-year-old man said, that he met a woman in late October at a local bar, and afterwards both had gone to a motel in Franklin. When he woke up, the woman, keys and the SUV were gone. He called Franklin police to make a stolen vehicle report.
Both victims say that they felt like suspects when Officer Horn requested their DNA after the SUV Lexus 2000 was recovered. The SUV is worth about $10,000, according to the male victim.
The female victim who the SUV is registered to says she reluctantly submitted to the DNA cheek swab by Horn, but the male victim refused to take one. Although, Officer Horn confiscated a sports cap from the male victim found in the SUV for DNA testing.
When Franklin Police Chief Richard Oliva was contacted by electronic email concerning their unusual process to require victims of stolen vehicles to submit DNA, he wrote the following, "When testing for DNA which might come from a suspect, it is necessary to have DNA samples of people known to have been in the vehicle in order to eliminate them as suspects. Unidentified DNA is then compared to the database of subjects who have their DNA on file. The unidentified DNA Will also be compared to any future identified suspect believed to be responsible for the crime. Both victims (names withheld by request) DNA samples will not be entered into the state or national DNA database. This is not an unusual practice.
We use the State Crime Lab and only submit for more serious offenses. If a victim refuses to give DNA we are not taking advantage of the state of the art way of establishing a suspects presence at the scene of a crime. Consequently, we have to go back to other traditional methods of investigation," Chief Oliva said on Monday.
When asked if other police departments in the area have similar DNA policy to require victims to submit DNA samples? Also, if Franklin Police Department kept statistics of people prosecuted for vehicle thefts using their DNA process?
"I do not comment on other police departments, and sorry, I have no statistics," Chief Oliva responded.
With the lack of DNA prosecution statistics for vehicle thefts by Franklin police, taxpayers are left without any justification to spend city funds to process specimen analysis from victims. The DNA analysis from victims won't be entered into the DNA database as felons are, according to Oliva. Chief Oliva didn't explained where the victims' DNA would actually end up after the case is closed. Will the DNA be kept on file or discarded?
In Wisconsin, the average cost for DNA testing is $390.00 per case. The State Crime Laboratory received 2,226 DNA cases in 2006, and was only able to process 1,152 cases, compared to an expected backlog of more than 3,000 cases by 2010, according to a report by the State Crime Lab Resources for DNA Analysis. 
The state crime lab is required to analyze specimens of DNA from suspects submitted by Police Chiefs and other law enforcement entities in regards to felony investigations. The law fails to authorize law enforcement officials to require victims of a felony (stolen vehicles) to submit DNA for analysis.
In September, the DNA controversy erupted when Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen discovered some 12,000 convicts in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and other entities like the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department failed to collect DNA cheek swab's from inmates convicted and sentenced before transferring them to state prisons. 
"Felons are required to submit a DNA sample for entry in the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS, when convicted. The collection of the samples and development of the profiles has led to arrests and convictions in other cases. What it means at worst, is that there are offenses that have been committed for which we have DNA evidence and we don’t have a known offender in the data bank to tie that offense to," Van Hollen said.
The arrest of suspected serial killer Walter Ellis in Franklin led to the discovery of the absent DNA profiles. Ellis apparently had another inmate submit his sample. When crime lab technicians realized the profile was a duplicate, it was discarded.
In 21 states, similar laws require county sheriffs to collect a cheek swab from adults arrested on suspicion of felony crimes and juveniles found delinquent for certain sexual offenses at the time they're booked into jail, according to the New Mexico-based group DNA Saves. But, not from victims of stolen vehicles or other crimes perpetrated on them by suspects. Unless, the victim is killed, raped or seriously injured and their DNA is believed transferred to the suspects body, clothing and other items.

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