DNA answering more unsolved crimes

DNA answering more unsolved crimes »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- KEPR is always working to keep you safe. We looked into how many local convicts are now being linked to other crimes across the country. It's being done with DNA. And the effort to collect your cells is broadening. KEPR looked at how likely you'd submit for a swab.

It's part of Brett Wyland's job to swab a cheek multiple times a day. He's a corrections officer at the Benton County Jail. DNA is collected from all felons, but also some gross misdemeanors.

"Those are mostly sexually-motivated cases, kidnapping, things of that nature," said Wyland.

The DNA testing kit comes with a convicted offender identification card as well as a swabbing stick. The corrections officer must make sure they get each side of the inmate's cheeks, before placing the evidence on the card.

The samples go into a national database. Over the past three years, 14 convicts in Benton County were matched with other crimes across the country. Two hits came for sexual assault cases out of state. Convicts in Franklin County matched two unsolved crimes in the same time period.

"The more information we get on these people, that way we can track them as far as what crimes they are committing and hold them accountable for those crimes," said Wyland.

Right now, you must be convicted to submit to a DNA swab. But a State Senator is working to swab everyone arrested, even if innocent until proven guilty. The ACLU believes it violates your rights.

"For our money, I think there are much much more effective ways to spend our very, very limited criminal justice and public safety dollars to get an actual bang for the buck," said the ACLU Washington Legislative Director, Shankar Narayan.

The organization would fight the law if it's passed. But the four-a-day swabbings will continue for convicts as an effort to match unsolved crimes with people now convicted in our community.

It can take up to six months for DNA to be loaded into the database. Groups against the bill to swab those arrested, say that backlog would more than double.