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Dutch Police Ask 8000+ Citizens To Provide Their DNA 374

sciencewatcher writes "In an attempt to solve a rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl, the Dutch police have asked 8080 men to provide their DNA. All these people lived 5 km or less from the crime scene at the time of the murder. This reopened cold case is the first large-scale attempt not to hunt the rapist and killer but to locate his close or distant male relatives. All data gathered will be destroyed after the match with this particular murder. There seems to be great public support for this attempt." Shades of The Blooding.
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Dutch Police Ask 8000+ Citizens To Provide Their DNA

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:02PM (#41250987)

    That is what this boils down to. There is no "right" answer, but citizens of each country answer the question diferently.

  • Thus... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by halfEvilTech ( 1171369 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:07PM (#41251077)

    why not 6km away, 10km, etc? That is not that large of an area all things considered. It would be roughly the size of a small town. Who is to say the perp didn't live the next town over or was a nomad of sorts. Yes I know they say it is to possibly locate relatives, but how often would close enough match cause them to accuse said match.

    Also who would trust their government to "destroy" the data when they are done with it. Yes they may very well destroy the samples but you can bet your next paycheck that it will stay stored on some backup somewhere for future use.

  • Re:Promise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guises ( 2423402 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:08PM (#41251081)
    At least they did promise. When law enforcement here does the same thing and cites this case as precedent they'll neglect to consider that little condition.
  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:12PM (#41251137)

    Individuals answer the question differently. What happens if you say no, I wonder?

  • Bad move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:16PM (#41251203)

    This is a good article on the problems with fishing expeditions like this. [wordpress.com] Basically, the farther you cast the net, the greater the chance of false positives. What's worse, if there's just one false positive, it becomes next to impossible to argue your innocence because people look at the improbability of a single person being a false positive instead of the probability that there are false positives.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:17PM (#41251209) Homepage

    DNA screening only looks at a few characteristics. Take two random people, and there is about a 1-in-7000 chance that their DNA profiles will match. If you take the DNA profiles of 8000 people, it is quite likely that one of them will match the criminals profile. Meanwhile, the criminal will almost certainly find some way to avoid giving a sample. So you get to put some innocent person through hell, and for what?

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:21PM (#41251271)
    But this is the very definition of a "fishing expedition", which is against some of the most very basic legal principles and Constitutional rights of the American people.

    Scientists know -- and have been saying -- that DNA is far weaker evidence than prosecutors have tried to paint for the last few decades. But really more to the point: even if a conviction were made, it is not worth the loss of freedom and potential abuse this procedure involves.

    "That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved." -- Benjamin Franklin, letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785.

  • Re:Promise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fearlezz ( 594718 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:33PM (#41251461) Homepage

    In fact, in another Dutch case, the very same promise was made... and broken. The guys who fell for it are now stored in the central DNA database. Forever.

    If only I remembered what case that was, I would post a link.

  • Re:I'd do it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leromarinvit ( 1462031 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:41PM (#41251615)

    If I were the killer, I would certainly not give my DNA. They probably expect this. Those who refuse will of course receive special attention.

    Well, I've never killed anyone and don't plan to, but I most certainly wouldn't give anyone my DNA unless forced to. If they want to force me, they have to treat me as a suspect, I have a right to legal counsel, etc. Why should I trust the police that they'll destroy everything afterwards? Wouldn't be the first time they lied.

    They have to do their homework, find suspects, and then get THEM to provide a DNA sample. Taking shortcuts and asking everybody to provide one "voluntarily" is not acceptable, because at some point it won't be voluntary any more. The fact that the proper procedures take a lot of work is an insurance policy against just treating everybody as a suspect just in case.

  • Re:I'd do it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbreak ( 1575875 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:56PM (#41251873)
    If they would really look for relatives, then they would not limit themselves to male DNA sources. It should be obvious to anyone that a rapist can have female relatives just as well as male ones.
  • Bullshit ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @02:56PM (#41251875) Homepage

    I read this "All data gathered will be destroyed after the match with this particular murder" and immediately think bullshit.

    As a rule, once they have this, it never seem to go away.

    I would never submit to this unless I was required to -- this is a fishing expedition. Anybody who submits is probably innocent, and anybody who refuses is going to be treated as if they're guilty with something to hide.

    Yes, this is terrible. But asking everyone to submit exclusionary DNA because they've ran out of places to look ... well, I find that to be a really scary precedent.

    The next step of course would be to just simply have everyone's DNA on file just in case they ever needed it.

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @03:09PM (#41252021) Homepage Journal
    Any government that would use already tight (name a Gov. that isn't under the monetary gun right now) public funds to blanket over 8000 men in an attempt to find one murderer is not a smart government and not one I would care to support. You people nodding in the affermitive are pound foolish. Then after spending all that money to gather the samples they say the samples will be thrown out. You people are dreaming.
  • by Eponymous Hero ( 2090636 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @03:14PM (#41252109)
    which is exactly why dna evidence doesn't mean shit unless you can connect how it got there. right? http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/08/31/1534253/the-case-against-dna [slashdot.org]
  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @03:41PM (#41252533)

    Individuals answer the question differently. What happens if you say no, I wonder?

    "No-one will be forced to comply, the department said."

    Essentially, they're doing the same thing we're already doing in the US. If you say no, the authorities start implying that you're probably the guilty party. They start investigating you as the real suspect, and during the course of their investigation into your background, it becomes clear to all your friends, girlfriend/wife, coworkers, and family members, that you must have refused to supply them with your dna sample, or refused to take the lie detector test (otherwise, they wouldn't be asking such questions).

    And they're claiming they're looking for "family members", but notice they're not asking for dna samples from female participants. Either this is a little white lie designed to minimize the outrage the men must be feeling at being singled out, or perhaps they're hoping to nab a male teenager through the analysis of his fathers' dna (since getting dna from hundreds of male teenagers in the vicinity may actually be harder to achieve politically) .

  • by Bacon Bits ( 926911 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @04:05PM (#41252817)

    Yes, this is a perfect situation for the false positive paradox [wikipedia.org]. Essentially, unless the rate of false positives in the test is significantly lower than the number of perpetrators (which is anywhere from 1 in 8000 to 1 in several billion) then the test is useless.

    This is the same reason the AMA said *not* be screening for prostate cancer may be preferable because the tests are inaccurate. Mathematically you're guaranteeing you would largely treat patients that were not ill, and since treatment is not without risk you're risking more casualties by testing than would succumb to the disease.

    DNA evidence taken on this scale can be nothing more than circumstantial unless the test they use and the quality of forensic sample they have from the crime scene are accurate enough, and I can only hope the defense rakes the state over the coals if they screw it up. I honestly hope they get two unrelated positives, or one positive for a resident who has an air tight alibi.

    Forensics is not a substitute for police work.

  • by mrvan ( 973822 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @04:17PM (#41252999)

    Dutchman here, there has been quite some coverage on radio and television.

    If you say no the police will pay you a visit to ask why you said no. They have no legal means to entice you to change your opinion, this is a voluntary action (but as the purpose is to find relatives rather than the perp himself, they can afford some negatives).

    They also say that the data cannot legally be used for anything other than this investigation and will be destroyed afterwards, but this indeed boils down to trust.

    To the OP: it's not just "do you trust the government". If it also the (much more difficult) moral dilemma whether you want to collaborate in prosecuting a (possibly close) relative and presumably put all your family through a great deal of stress...

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @04:33PM (#41253205) Homepage

    I'd be damn fucking PROUD to be published on a list of "those who didn't cater to the OBVIOUS overstepping of the authorities

    From an AC.


  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @04:36PM (#41253253) Homepage

    I'm guessing that for now they are telling the truth, because first you have to make people accept giving DNA for various random cases. Then you point out the obvious waste and absurdity in collecting this information and throwing it away again and again. Since most people feel they're paying way too much taxes already they'll go with it and get permission to store it so they can just ask your permission to reuse it. Then they'll complain of the administration cost of getting permission for each individual use and make the default a permanent permission. From there you can just slow-roll it to cover more crimes to get more people in the system. And if you've boiled the frog well enough, perhaps the 51% will find that the other 49% should be in the system too.

  • Data destroyed? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:20PM (#41253711)

    Maybe you can believe the promises of the Dutch police, but if this were in the USA, I would say there was not a chance in HELL the data would really be destroyed.

    I suspect it would not only be kept locally, but probably snarfed by the state police, FBI, DHS, CIA, and/or whatever.

    Sorry to sound so jaded.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:47PM (#41253935)

    We don't all have the need to start an account on every site we read.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling