Police investigators hunting criminals tend to search for the perpetrator’s DNA sample at the crime scene, or for an eyewitness to help piece together a composite portrait.
But breakthrough research presently underway at the Tel-Hai Academic College is meant to spur a revolution in the field by combining the two methods: within a year or so, researchers say that genetic samples will be able to indicate the offender’s facial and body structures.
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A fingerprint, hair, drop of saliva or blood, and even scrap of clothing that rubbed against the skin of a suspect – those items make up just a portion of the types of evidence that will help create a new type of suspect description: the DNA composite portrait.
“Police take DNA samples today as well, but if [the samples] don’t appear in the databases, there’s almost nothing that can be done with them. If someone isn’t in the database, like most people aren’t, then there’s no lead,” explains Dani Bercovich, who is heading the research.
“The new development will provide tons of leads. We’ll know the sex of the offender and be able to estimate his height, age range, color and type of hair, eye color and ethnic background — even whether he is right or left-handed.” Bercovich says that the test will even indicate a propensity for balding in the case of men, and a chest-size estimate for women.
There exist various types of detectors around the world that use DNA sampling to search for multiple parameters simultaneously. However, to date, no chip has been developed that is designed to solve criminal cases.
“Specific tests have been done in various places that offer some of the information given by the chip we are developing. But there is no chip that simultaneously gives all of the parameters that we can find,” said Yoram Plotzky, the director of one of the labs taking part in the initiative. “The chips that exist today tell you how you should live and what kind of diet you should have. But we are taking, from among all of the parameters that have already been discovered, only those that can provide a profile for a criminal investigation — made up of external, behavioral and clear sociological traits.”
According to senior officials at Tel-Hai, high-level police sources learned of the technology’s development in a conference that took place some two weeks ago, and have already expressed interest. Plotzky also noted the chip has the advantage of being “open,” able to be updated.
“The world continues to research connections between genetic characteristics and external human traits. We’ll be able to update the technology with this new information and expand the database of parameters and details that can be deciphered with DNA samples.”