The DNA Field Experiment: Testing Cost Effectiveness of Collecting DNA in Property Crimes

In the past, the use of DNA to solve property crimes seemed like a poor investment — particularly if only the cost of an individual episode (and its related investigative costs) were considered. NIJ funded the Urban Institute to look at the effectiveness of performing DNA analysis of biological evidence collected from property crime scenes in five jurisdictions: Los Angeles, Topeka, Denver, Phoenix and Orange County (Calif.).

Inspired by the United Kingdom's successful experience in using DNA to solve property crimes, the NIJ field experiment looked beyond the individual and immediate property offense to the possible arrest of a high-rate offender. NIJ funding supported the purchase of supplies and equipment, as well as expenses of additional law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, crime laboratory personnel and outside DNA analysis services.

The results of the NIJ study challenge the belief that collecting and analyzing DNA evidence in property crimes is cost prohibitive. The study demonstrated that collecting DNA in property crimes, such as burglaries, is cost effective and dramatically increases the numbers of burglary suspects identified. The Urban Institute evaluation suggests that DNA collected from a property crime scene not only has the potential to prevent future property and violent crimes, but more burglars and serious violent offenders can be brought to justice, leading to safer communities.

Date Modified: June 16, 2008