Cape Town - Nyanga residents have been shown how to secure a crime scene, should they arrive before the police, so that evidence is preserved.
The crime scene awareness campaign was organised by the non-profit organisation DNA Project at the Lusaka Community Hall in Nyanga on Monday. It is part of the police’s Women’s Month Programme.
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule which is found in almost every cell in the human body and acts as a personal “identification number”. While fingerprints can be found at a crime scene only if a person touches a surface with bare fingers, DNA can be extracted from blood, hair, body fluids, skin cells and fragments of bone and teeth.
Nyanga’s police station commander, Brigadier Mpumelelo Manci, said 10 areas in the Western Cape had extremely high numbers of reported rape cases, including Nyanga, Gugulethu, Mitchells Plain and Manenberg. The plan is to visit these areas this month to tell people what to do and not to do should they come across a crime scene.
Manci said: “It was imperative that we prioritise educating the Nyanga community first. Community members are often the first ones to arrive at a crime scene. We need communities to help us not only by testifying in court but by understanding they have an important role to play in preserving evidence.”
Residents were shown a mock-up of a crime scene, complete with different items that contain DNA, such as condoms and hair.
The DNA Project’s trainer Grant Godsmark, said DNA was a vital aid in getting bad guys off the streets.
“It’s very difficult not to leave some kind of DNA behind at a crime scene. And the crime scene is usually bigger than a person might think, as one does not know where a criminal has been. It’s important not to touch or remove anything… It’s also important to make sure that the victim, if still alive, is looked after, but at the same time it’s important to ensure that the evidence is secured. If you do move anything let the police know.”
Godsmark said the first person at a crime scene should not touch anything but record and observe. If anyone was lurking around, take note of their appearance as they could be a suspect.
Godsmark said it took 30 to 120 days for the police to process and analyse DNA.
Nyanga resident Nolukholo Phoyiyana said she had come across several crime scenes in the township. “Sometimes a person is already dead and covered with a sheet, and we sometimes lift the sheet to check if it’s someone we know,” she said. “Now I know why we shouldn’t touch it and why the police tell us to move away from the scene.”
The DNA Project was founded by attorney Vanessa Lynch in 2008, after her father was murdered in his home. No one was convicted after all traces of DNA and other forensic evidence were lost. Since then, Lynch has been lobbying for Parliament to pass the DNA bill, also known as The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill.
Once it is law, the bill will boost the size of the National DNA Database, a database of all suspected and convicted criminals. The larger the database, the more chance police have of linking an unknown DNA profile to a known profile taken from a suspect or convicted offender.