Police promote forensics over witnesses
18 March 2005
AMSTERDAM — Dismissing concerns about George Orwell-type invasion of privacy, Dutch police chiefs have called for a greater focus on chemical and biological investigation techniques to crack down on crime.
The council of chief superintendents said in a report published on Friday that the shift in focus to forensic evidence in the future should come at the expense of efforts to find witnesses.
It called for the establishment of a strategy group to study and implement the new investigation techniques, news service NOS reported. Police claim the Netherlands is trailing other countries in the move towards forensic evidence.
They said the strategy group should have a budget extending into the millions of euros and be made up of officials from the Interior and Justice ministries, police, the Dutch Forensics Institute (NFI), scientific research and the business sector.
The report – ‘Spelverdeler in de opsporing’ (Playmaker in Investigation) – asserts that forensic evidence is of greater value than witness statements.
“Currently, we still have to question witnesses and they don’t always know exactly what happened and suspects tell lies now and again,” Amsterdam police chief Bernhard Welten said, adding that forensic evidence is “indisputable”.
Instead of speaking to residents and people in the vicinity of a crime, police should focus on gathering forensic evidence. A greater amount of forensic evidence is already being gathered due to technological improvements.
The council said instead of playing a support role, forensic evidence should become a “powerful and integral division” of police activities. Forensic evidence would become a decisive factor in investigations, news agency ANP reported.
The police report urged the Dutch government to invest millions of euros in the coming five years to develop the forensic evidence system by implementing new techniques.
Welten, the chief of the forensic evidence project group, said fiddling around with brushes and powder to find fingerprints will be a thing of the past by 2010. He said in the event of a burglary, police will use a ‘clue sniffer’ mini-laboratory that will be placed in a room and detect and compare what evidence has been left behind by the culprits.
“That is now still science fiction, but everything that is predicted in science fiction comes true. This also,” he said.
All evidence found should be stored and compared in a central databank, allowing authorities to quickly determine who carried out the crime.
There is already a finger print and DNA database in the Netherlands, but police urged for a system in which this data could be matched with chemical, biological or digital evidence. That could yield more information, leading to more crimes being solved. The police databases should also be linked to all other databases.
And in one of the more far-reaching proposals, police chiefs called for the collecting of DNA from every suspect of a crime that carries a minimum sentence of four years. The Dutch government recently introduced a system in which every criminal convicted of such crimes must supply their DNA.
Despite ongoing opposition to DNA storage and the linking of data banks, Welten also said resistance to such schemes is less than what it was 10 years ago. Recent surveys have indicated a large section of the Dutch public is prepared to trade some privacy for greater security.
“You will of course get George Orwell-like situations. But to that I say it can then be a bit safer as well. And a lot less safer for villains who are now trying to hide themselves,” Welten said.
The Amsterdam chief-superintendent said the public is prepared to offer up sacrifices for their safety, but said opportunities were being missed. “If there are chances, you have to try and grab them,” he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news