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Making Maryland Safer With Appropriate Use of DNA

Colonel Marcus L. Brown comments on the use of DNA technology.

by Colonel Marcus L. Brown, Superintendent, Maryland State Police

A lot of smart people came together in 2008 to determine how we could more effectively use DNA technology to make Maryland safer. They included veteran prosecutors, experienced criminal justice professionals, and concerned legislators. They agreed with Governor O’Malley’s vision and worked on a fair, practical, and reasonable approach to better protection for our citizens with DNA evidence.  

Criminal justice professionals examined the impact the legislation could have on reducing crime in Maryland. One review focused on three violent crime offenders in Baltimore County and Baltimore City and found that, if the law had been in effect when they were arrested, at least 19 other violent crimes they were charged with would likely have been prevented.  

Careful study of existing laws was conducted to ensure Maryland’s law was focused and fair. Maryland’s statute requires that a person must be both arrested and charged with a qualifying crime before a sample can be taken. In addition, the sample cannot be analyzed for entry into the arrestee/charged database until the suspect has had his or her first arraignment. Since then, 13 additional states have passed similar laws, bringing the total number of states with laws like ours to 26.

The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and law enforcement professionals across our state supported this legislation. In the past three years, they have witnessed its effectiveness and continue to support its purpose. This Association is also in support of an appeal of the decision rendered yesterday.

Since Jan. 1, 2009, we have used this law to take dozens of violent offenders off Maryland streets. A Baltimore County man was arrested, convicted of first degree rape, and sentenced to life in prison in October 2010, due to DNA evidence originally collected after he was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting his seven and eight-year-old female cousins in 2008.

The DNA evidence collected from this arrest matched the DNA collected at the scene of a 2004 rape of a 13-year-old girl at a bus stop as well as a another 2000 rape of a 14-year-old girl. The 42-year-old suspect became the first person arrested and convicted in Baltimore under the DNA arrestee collection law. This man was a career offender with an extensive list of drug and robbery arrests.

In the case ruled on by the Court of Appeals yesterday, a Salisbury man was arrested and convicted of first degree rape and sentenced to life in prison in October 2010, due to DNA evidence originally collected from a previous assault charge in 2009. This collected DNA was linked to DNA taken from an unsolved case in September 2003, when a woman was raped and robbed at gunpoint in her home.

A man from Weyworth, MA, was arrested by the Weyworth Police on Sept. 21, 2010, for the brutal rape of a 17-year-old girl in the basement of a church in 1995—a case that had remained unsolved for 16 years. This offender had DNA taken in Maryland for a homicide arrest and was incarcerated in Maryland at the time. Maryland officials contacted Weyworth police and they came to Maryland to swab his DNA. He was arrested after the positive match. This offender is a career criminal and was already serving a life sentence in Maryland for two other rapes. He will now have additional time added to this sentence. Police could not have made an arrest without the positive DNA comparison.  

Since the arrestee/charged database law is only three years old, we are nowhere near reaching its full potential as a crime fighting tool. As we have seen with the convicted offender database, as the number of samples in the database expands, the number of positive comparisons and identified offenders increases exponentially.  

Any experienced public safety professional knows the majority of violent crimes are committed by a small group of repeat offenders. Even while awaiting trial on one offense, these individuals are not hesitant to prey upon our citizens and commit additional crimes. It is just common sense to believe that if we can take a criminal off the street sooner, we will reduce the chances that he or she will commit additional crimes.  

While nationally, Maryland is viewed as a leader in crime fighting innovation, our streets are still far too violent. When courts fail to recognize the need of our people to be protected in a fair and just manner, we go backwards, not forwards. That is something we cannot afford to do, given our responsibility to protect human life.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Native April 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Can't have those potential liberal (democratic), voters being locked up just because their DNA might be matched up with another crime! Nothing to see here, move along.
Joe Thomas April 30, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Move along my butt. This is an outrageous decision. 34 violent criminals will be surely be released because their cases hinged on DNA data base hits.
Dennis Gilpin May 03, 2012 at 01:14 PM
If you think of it, people are arrested and finger printed and sometimes put in a line up. This doesn't make them guilty of any crime until a judge or jury makes that decision.DNA is no different. Just an additional tool to match crimes to individuals . If a DNA match protects us from violent criminals who wins ? Simple procedure that fights crime.
AG May 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Most I have talked to don't mind DNA being kept from those convicted. The problem is with retaining the DNA of people who have not been convicted of a crime. COL Brown has conveniently not commented on this.
Dennis Gilpin May 03, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Keeping DNA shouldn't be any concern to anybody.Just a Data bank like social Security and drivers licenses.Should be more worried about criminals getting your social security information and cleaning out your bank account.We could just make it a law that when you get an idenitfication card or a drivers license you give a DNA sample.This way it won't discriminate.Crimes would be solved faster .This probably will never happen but just giving a sample DNA (when apprehended) is a proven tool to eliminate the prosecution of innocent people.and taking dangerous people off the streets.A simple procedure with the potential of saving lives.Think of it this way. If a crime is committed and a person has a record of being involved in these type of "activities" they can be eliminated as a suspect if DNA is found.No hunting them down for questioning.Saves valuable time during an investigation.The trade off is that it protects everybody.

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