Trace DNA: An underutilized resource or Pandora's box? A review of the use of trace DNA analysis in the investigation of volume crime

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Journal Article
Journal of Forensic Identification, 2004, 54 (6), pp. 668 - 686
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Spectacular advances in DNA technology have greatly expanded its applicability to forensic science. As the processes become sufficiently sensitive to detect trace DNA, a vast number of crime scene samples not previously considered for analysis are now able to be tested. However, in spite of these obvious benefits, trace DNA analysis raises problems not often considered by investigators and forensic scientists. This paper discusses the history and development of trace DNA analysis. It suggests a trend of underutilization and discusses issues surrounding its application and alternative uses for the results gained. The approach in the past has been that DNA evidence was solely employed as an absolute form of evidence, and, consequently, research focused primarily on increasing sensitivity and discrimina-tion power. We are suggesting that DNA evidence should be treated as any other trace evidence. Research to provide data for basic trace evidence properties of deposit, presence, transfer, and persistence may allow trace DNA analysis to be more effectively utilized in the investigation of crime. Together with recent developments in forensic intelligence, this research could facilitate the progressive application of trace DNA analysis to volume crime investigations, an outcome with the potential to reduce the rate of volume crime and contribute to crime prevention strategies.
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