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Crime Suppression Tool's Effectiveness, Legality To Be Tested

CSI Select Products
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
CSI Select Products

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association is now employing a new "Crime Suppression Initiative."  Its effectiveness, and legality, is likely going to be tested. 

CSI uses synthetic forensic technology capable of tagging criminals with an invisible forensic mist of synthesized DNA, composed of shorter chains than human DNA, so police can identify them — even months after a crime was committed. It comes in many forms including water-soluble spray, grease and gel.

CSI Select executive Vice President Joe Maltese says Albany County Sheriff’s deputies and members of the Albany Police Department are currently undergoing training involving working with the technology.   "And while it's newer to the U.S. it is not new. It is tried, tested, proven for a very long time. And many many police agencies in the U.K. and Europe utilize it. And now all we want to do is replicate that and have a very good impact in making the community safer for which the law enforcement officers serve."

For less than $100 a month, stores can use the technology to protect their inventory. Maltese says criminals exposed to just a touch of the DNA compound could be apprehended weeks or months later.    "No system is impossible to defeat. But first of all the individual needs to know that they've been marked. And number two it's very, very robust. Given a synthetic forensic markers short, short chain structure, they'd have to be able to identify it. All we need is one molecule to be able to analyze this. So that that's the beauty of it."

Attorney Derrick Hogan with the law firm Tully-Rinckey has some issues with the technology including the possibility of a DNA spray device misfiring or an innocent person at a crime scene being tagged by overspray.    "It is troubling for me, the potential invasion of privacy to put some type of, for lack of a better term, tracking tool on someone, and then, how can we be so sure that's going to have pinpoint accuracy in the future?"

Maltese believes people just knowing it's there – signage pointing out the mere presence of the DNA technology - will markedly reduce the likelihood of crime.

As for concerns over civil liberties:  "As long as a defense attorney is notified in writing, to know that the evidence is being analyzed,  that is not an issue and launches I believe 60 days prior to a trial, so we definitely did our homework before we came here, especially with the changes in the in the bail reform law."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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