Beyond the Cold Hit: Measuring the Impact of the National DNA Data Bank on Public Safety at the City and County Level



Over the past decade, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) has increased solvability of violent crimes by linking evidence DNA profiles to known offenders. At present, an in-depth analysis of the United States National DNA Data Bank effort has not assessed the success of this national public safety endeavor. Critics of this effort often focus on laboratory and police investigators unable to provide timely investigative support as a root cause(s) of CODIS' failure to increase public safety. By studying a group of nearly 200 DNA cold hits obtained in SFPD criminal investigations from 2001–2006, three key performance metrics (Significance of Cold Hits, Case Progression & Judicial Resolution, and Potential Reduction of Future Criminal Activity) provide a proper context in which to define the impact of CODIS at the City and County level. Further, the analysis of a recidivist group of cold hit offenders and their past interaction with law enforcement established five noteworthy criminal case resolution trends; these trends signify challenges to CODIS in achieving meaningful case resolutions. CODIS' effectiveness and critical activities to support case resolutions are the responsibility of all criminal justice partners in order to achieve long-lasting public safety within the United States.