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A new rule allowing partial DNA matches now provides NY law enforcement with some extra help tracking down criminals.
According to the New York Times, a controversial new state rule now allows investigators to take DNA from a crime scene that does not exactly match someone in the state's DNA database and pursue suspects whose DNA that closely resembles that of someone on file.
This sophisticated means to track down criminals is called a partial DNA match. Searches can now be narrowed to query relatives of people whose DNA is already in the state database.
The new rule gives legal sanction to a 2006 guideline adopted by the FBI allowing states to share info about partial matches that can be run through a national DNA database operated by the bureau.
The police tool is already used in Denver and California. In Denver, searching for partial matches has so far led to one conviction in the year and a half the city has been using new software, prosecutors say.
California's DNA policy is fairly aggressive and calls for law enforcement to explicitly strive to match unidentified DNA samples with someone already on file.
New York officials say that the state's policy would be different from the practice in California and Denver. For example, a report of a partial match would go to local authorities only if they came across the partial match in the process of conducting a search for a complete match.
DNA experts, however, wonder how that would be carried out in practical terms.
To date, New York's DNA database contains more than 343,000 genetic profiles of people convicted of serious crimes.