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INNOVATION / MICHAEL SCHRAGE

Genetic Profiling Could Make DNA Violent Crime's Worst Enemy

March 17, 1994|MICHAEL SCHRAGE | Michael Schrage is a writer, consultant and research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He writes this column independently for The Times

The economics of these techniques are also favorable. Computer matching is cheap and, as biotechnology improves, the costs of DNA sampling could fall from roughly $200 a test today to less than $50 by the end of the decade.

In the interest of justice and fairness, every effort must be taken to assure that these technologies are completely valid. It's unfortunate that there has been no technical coordination, for example, between the multibillion-dollar Human Genome Initiative and the forensic DNA programs of the FBI.

"The Human Genome Project could be helpful in addressing some of the kinds of technical statistical issues that have come up in terms of populations," acknowledges the FBI's Hicks. "It could help do away with a lot of the polemics on how unique certain DNA sequences are."

The rise of forensic DNA is hardly a panacea for crime-weary Americans. On the other hand, it presents the most credible opportunity for stripping security and anonymity away from those who commit criminal acts. Criminal behavior may not be genetic. But criminals will be betrayed by their own DNA at the scene or on the weapon of a crime.

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