23 October 2009

The Utter Moral Bankruptcy of the DNA Database

This is staggering:

Detections using the national DNA database have fallen over the past two years despite the number of profiles increasing by 1m and its running costs doubling to £4.2m a year.

A report on the database covering the years 2007-09, published today, shows that crimes cleared up as a result of a match on the DNA database fell from 41,148 to 31,915 over the period. At the same time the number of DNA profiles on the database – already the largest in the world – rose from 4.6m to 5.6m. Duplicates mean that the police database now holds details of 4.89 million individuals.

That is, despite increasing the size to getting on for 10% of the UK population, the number of crimes cleared *fell* by over 25%. How pathetic is that? Not as pathetic as this statement from the truly Orwellian "National Policing Improvement Agency":

Nevertheless, Peter Neyroud, the head of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which hosts the DNA database, says in the report that it continues to provide the police with the most effective tool for the prevention and detection of crime since the development of fingerprint analysis more than a century ago.

Against the background that this "most effective tool for the prevention and detection of crime since the development of fingerprint analysis more than a century ago" is getting ever-less effective and more costly, and infringing on the rights of ever more people, this statement proves just one thing: that the British police are getting more and more incompetent, and have to rely on more and more Draconian laws and tools just to stop their already footling success rate dropping even more precipitously.

This is an utter scandal on so many levels, but above all because the UK government is continuing to foist this intrusive, disproportionate, racist and morally repugnant approach upon us when it's *own figures* demonstrate that it is failing more and more each year.

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phayes said...

“... getting ever-less effective and more costly ... police are getting more and more incompetent ... demonstrate that it is failing more and more each year.”


Apart from the illogic (staggering, given your background, Glyn ;-), the tone makes me wonder if maybe you've been watching too much of this sort of thing:


and not enough of this:



Glyn Moody said...

OK, here's my thinking.

Over the last decade or so, the UK police have been given more and more, ever-more intrusive tools: RIP, CCTV, DNA database etc.

Every time, the justification is the same: we need more powerful tools to beat the criminals because our conviction rate is going down: this will allow us to "fight back".

And yet the next time exactly the *same* argument is used to justify yet more Draconian impositions, because the conviction rate is *still* going down despite these shiny new police toys.

So, in their own words, the police are producing fewer convictions, despite the ever-wider reach of tools like the DNA database. And so, by GCSE science, the efficiency, which is the ratio of the useful output energy to the input energy, is decreasing.

The reason is because instead of concentrating on police basics - getting out on the streets, building up relationships with members of the public, trying to make them feel confident in the presence of police, not fearful - they now fall back on the crutches of surveillance et al., driven, ironically, by their own failure, which drives that failure further.

That, for me is sheer incompetence, because it is doing less with more, and failing to carry out the basic policing the community requires.


phayes said...

The rationale behind the DNA database is that it improves detection rates. Roughly 40% compared to 26% overall, apparently. Even those making justifiable criticisms of various aspects of it (including crazy government plans for it!) accept those facts¹.

The figures in the Guardian are absolute numbers, not detection rates - let alone comparative detection rates. If overall detection rates are falling, the idea that it is because of a tool which manifestly improves the efficiency of detection is... eccentric - and certainly not a conclusion it is logically possible to draw from those figures, as I'm sure any good GCSE science student would know.

[As for the supposed running cost doubling - from a mere £2.1m to a measly £4.2m: even that weak criticism is bogus - as the Guardian article you linked to that made it helpfully explains a few paragraphs later!]

¹ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1490298/

Glyn Moody said...

I'm simply saying that if the clear-up rate keeps on falling despite all the liberty-infringing concessions being made to the police, then the latter are clearly doing something wrong.

I suggest that mistake is choosing the route of infringing on our liberties in multiplicitous ways - and thus losing the public's respect and confidence (as they've lost mine of the last decade) - instead of performing traditional policing activities with traditional means (ie, hard work, not finding "easy" matches in a DNA database that are increasingly likely to implicate innocent bystanders whose DNA just happens to be on the database).