DNA Database Called Into Question

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

October 19, 2006

Just last year, Virginia's statewide DNA database helped to solve or aided in almost 3,500 criminal investigations. One of Charlottesville's top cops believes that can improve.

"It's the greatest advancement in law enforcement in my lifetime," said Captain Chip Harding.

In the early 1990's, Virginia developed a database chronicling the DNA of all convicted felons. That database houses over 250,000 samples right now, but there are still some shortcomings.

"I didn't realize that samples that should be in the system that should be taken from felons weren't going in," Captain Harding said.

Locally, Harding says that out of 600 supervised felons, 125 of them are not listed on the database. Statewide, that means a lot of criminals remain on the loose, potentially including the area's serial rapist.

"Could that someone be our serial rapist or someone else's serial rapist? I don't know but I think Virginians deserve an answer to that," Harding said.

On top of closing the gaps in the present process, Harding would also like to see testing expanded to include everyone arrested for any crime.

"There's no telling where it would stop," said Civil Rights Attorney Steven Rosenfield.

Rosenfield, who has represented clients like Earl Washington, said that any further DNA legislation will infringe on people's already frayed rights.

"I value our rights as citizens not to have the government interfere or intrude into our lives any more than necessary," he said.

Harding believes a statewide audit is necessary to find where the process is breaking down. From there, officials could fix the process making the state safer in the end.

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