Letter to the Editor

DNA ‘fingerprint’ offers best chance to help law enforcement solve crime

Thursday, February 2, 2017

To the Editor:

For decades, the mug shot and the ink-stained fingerprint have served as the core collection techniques used by law enforcement to identify suspects involved in crimes. But the advent of newer DNA technology offers the next best chance at snagging the perpetrators of these violent crimes.

Nearly 30 states already collect DNA samples from felony arrest suspects, and Indiana should be the next in line to join the 21 st century.

State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem) is the sponsor of legislation to be introduced in the 2017 Indiana General Assembly that will allow DNA samples to be collected to be added to a national database. The proposed bill has bi-partisan support from State Sen. Jack E. Sandlin (R-Indianapolis) and State Reps. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) and Gregory Steuerwald (R-Danville), who have supported previous legislation.

This proposed legislation is an important next step for county prosecutors and law enforcement as they seek to solve crimes in their communities. We have already seen it work in recent months in central Indiana.

The well-publicized 2016 murder of an 82-year-old Zionsville man on his driveway left police detectives puzzled for several days. A break in the case came when DNA taken from an unrelated crime scene matched the suspect’s DNA that was collected during a past Ohio arrest.

The suspect is now in police custody and awaiting a murder trial. (A criminal charge is merely an accusation. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.)

Some opponents will say this new legislation is an intrusion on their civil rights. On the contrary, a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that collection of DNA samples from arrest suspects did not violate their Fourth Amendment rights.

It is time for Indiana to join other states and make use of modern technology to protect our citizens, keep dangerous criminals off the street, and make our communities safer.

Tim Bookwalter

Putnam County Prosecutor