UK police recruiting male Brits for an anti-crime DNA database
The UK policing authorities are on a mission to convince male Brits to anonymously hand over DNA samples to help put sex offenders behind bars.
The Swab Out Crime campaign seeks to create the Y-STR DNA reference database, a database specifically for the Y-chromosome, a part of DNA only present in those born genetically male.
The project is led by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC)’s Forensic Capability Network (FCN), tasked with aiding police forces in forensic work, and the UK Home Office’s Forensic Information Databases Service (FINDS). The two agencies are partnering with Eurofins, a French group of laboratories headquartered in Luxembourg.
“This database is an excellent example of how policing can be an effective science-led service,” Paul Taylor, chief scientific advisor at the NPCC told industry media Police Oracle in May.
Investigators often use Y-STR profiling to find suspects in rape and domestic violence cases in which male and female DNA is mixed together. The reference database is not used for matching to criminals but instead shows how common, and therefore how relevant as evidence, a certain DNA profile is.
UK investigators are currently using a global database of Y-STR profiles. The goal of the Swab Out Crime initiative is to voluntarily collect samples representative of the UK’s population from 10,000 men.
In June, the UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson called for increasing the retention of biometric data, such as fingerprints and DNA samples, during investigations: Last year, only 127 police retention applications were made. He also called for extending the maximum retention period beyond three years.
But the UK police will also have to tackle a damaged reputation in handling DNA samples. The commissioner’s office revealed this year that some 1,500 DNA samples had been compromised or lost.