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Rapid and mobile DNA analysis can speed up the investigation at the crime scene, but also has its risks. A new decision model can help the police and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) to determine whether or not to use rapid and mobile DNA analysis in specific in specific investigations. The model is a result of the PhD research of Anna Mapes, who is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics. She has her PhD defence on Thursday, 30 November at the University of Amsterdam.

Photo: politieacademie

Rapid, mobile DNA analysis of biological traces (Rapid DNA) is a ‘standard’ procedure in the well-known crime television series CSI. The crime series is obviously fiction, but it is a possible serious look into the future of forensic research.

Speeding up criminal investigations

Rapid and mobile DNA analysis on the crime scene can significantly speed up criminal investigations, but also has its risks. The technique is less sensitive, causing that some rapid analysis don’t result in a DNA profile, while the same trace in the lab would have resulted in a DNA profile. Successful use of new techniques therefore requires an analysis of technical and legal possibilities and the decision taking of forensic investigators at the crime scene regarding the use of these techniques. Mapes studied these factors, which resulted in a decision model for police and OM that can help in the decision taking whether or not to use rapid and mobile DNA analysis in specific criminal investigations.

Mapes studied literature and dossiers and thereby observed forensic investigators at staged crime scenes when Rapid DNA decisions had to be taken. Her results showed that a crime investigation could be solved faster with rapid DNA technique. At the same time detectives selected a lot of irrelevant and unpromising traces, that were not promising enough for analysis with the less sensitive, faster technique, which makes the criminal investigations more difficult.  

Added value

In the end Mapes also look at the legal possibilities to carry out Rapid DNA at the crime scene. She concluded that the with right legal basis, good quality controls and a proper decision model the use of rapid mobile DNA analysis can be of added value for the criminal justice system. The decision  model that she developed offers police and OM tools for a successful implementation of these technique in future practices.

Details PhD defence

Anna A. Mapes: Rapid DNA Technologies at the Crime Scene. ‘CSI’ Fiction Matching Reality. Promotoren zijn prof. dr. A.D. Kloosterman (NFI en UvA) en prof. dr. C.J. de Poot (VU, HvA en Politieacademie).

Time and location

The PhD defence takes place on Thursday, 30 November at 16.00. Location: Agnietenkapel, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231, Amsterdam.