Cape Town - 120515 - The DNA Project set up a large sand pit with the face of a criminal painted onto it at the Cape Town Train Station. As people walked over the sand the face gradually lost its resemblance. The aim was to inform the public the importance of not disturbing a crime scene to preserve any DNA evidence that may have been left behind. Photographer: David Ritchie

THERESA TAYLOR

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The most helpful thing you can do on a crime scene is to not touch anything.

Washing away the blood, removing a cooldrink can from near the body and even walking around on the scene could destroy crucial evidence and result in no one ever being convicted for the crime.

This is the message the DNA Project is trying to spread with its latest campaign to educate South Africans on protecting DNA evidence left at a crime scene.

Last month, the NGO and production company FoxP2 had an interactive event at the central train station in Cape Town where they created a mug shot of a criminal in pebbles on the ground and allowed passers-by to walk across it. Over the course of the morning the face became less distinct, until it vanished.

“It was beyond my expectations in term of peoples’ 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 Joburg 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 and was recently consulted by the Civilian Secretariat of Police to comment on the DNA policy that was presented to the National Assembly’s committee on police earlier this month.

The policy, which recommends that the DNA profiles of suspects and offenders 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Lynch told The Star recently that the legislation used to regulate this area of the law was outdated and inadequate because it had been promulgated more than 30 years ago, long before the advent of DNA profiling in the country.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 is really accurate and very strong evidence, but currently you can’t take a profile from a convicted offender in South Africa.”

Lynch also said she believed that DNA profiling would help to deter would-be criminals and result in the swift processing of crimes.