The most helpful thing you can do on a crime scene is not to touch anything. Washing away the blood, removing a cold-drink can near the body and even walking around the crime scene could destroy crucial evidence and result in detectives failing to piece together enough evidence to make an arrest.
This is the message the DNA Project is trying to spread with its latest campaign to educate the public on protecting DNA evidence left at a crime scene.
Earlier this month, the NGO, together with production company FoxP2, launched an activation at Cape Town’s central train station where they created a mug shot of a criminal in small stones on the ground, and allowed passers-by to walk across it. Over the course of the morning the face became less and less distinct, until it vanished entirely.
“It was beyond my expectations in term of people’s response,” said DNA Project founder Vanessa Lynch. “The physical action of walking over those stones which essentially represented evidence on a crime scene… there was such a connection for these people as to what happens when you walk over a crime scene.”
Lynch started the organisation after her father was murdered in his Johannesburg home in 2004 and all traces of DNA and other forensic evidence were lost. The DNA Project believes that DNA evidence is crucial in convicting criminals. It was recently consulted by the Civilian Secretariat of Police to comment on the DNA policy which was presented to the portfolio committee on police last week.
The DNA Policy, which recommends that the DNA profiles of suspects and convicted criminals be entered into a national database, was accepted by the committee and will form the basis of the second draft of the DNA Bill, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament at the end of August.
Lynch said the current legislation was outdated and inadequate as it involved laws that were made 30 years ago, long before the advent of DNA profiling in the country.
“An amendment to the 1977 Criminal Procedures Act will allow for the current DNA database to be expanded to include DNA profiles of offenders.
“DNA profiling provides really accurate and very strong evidence, but currently you can’t take a profile from a convicted offender in SA.”
Lynch said she believed that DNA profiling would also help deter criminals and would-be offenders, advance the education of paramedics and others who are first on the scene, and result in swift prosecution.