Familial DNA Searching may be used in Vancouver, Canada, to Catch a Serial Rapist
Filed under Testing on 1/19/2011 by Author: .

A DNA profile of an unknown man has been linked to three sex assaults in Vancouver, British Columbia, and police say he could be responsible for five more unsolved cases. But the genetic evidence taken at the scene of the assaults doesn't match anyone in the national DNA database. Vancouver police made a public appeal for help on Thursday, but five days later, there are no new leads.

The Canadian Department of Justice says it isn't ready to approve familial DNA searching, but a spokeswoman told local TV station, CTVBC.CA, that the government is "actively consulting" with provincial governments, police and privacy advocates about the technique. Vancouver police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) declined to comment when contacted by CTVBC.CA, but according to a government report,  RCMP or Mounties as they are called, have lobbied for the right to do familial DNA searches.

In the United Kingdom, California and Colorado, police has had one more option before hitting a dead end. That's because laws in those places allow investigators to search for partial matches in the offender DNA database and identify possible family members of unknown criminals.

Rockne Harmon, a retired California deputy district attorney and the driving force behind California's decision to allow Familial DNA Searching law to be passed said to CTVBC that, "You can continue to try and solve a case when those other steps have failed. We do know that crime seems to run in families for complicated reasons." Harmon continued by saying that in Vancouver they should consider using this technique too. "Why would you have a law that would keep you from something that can solve crimes?" In essence, he said, "It'll help make the world a safer place."

In July 2010, California became the first state to arrest a serial killer thanks to Familial DNA Searching. Los Angeles police were able to identify Lonnie Franklin Jr., also known as the "Grim Sleeper",  responsible for the murders of at least 10 people over a 25 year period. In California, scientists at the State Department of Justice handle familial DNA searches, not the police. And until a suitable match is made through Y chromosome analysis, all the DNA samples are known only by their file numbers.

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