January 27, 2012: Transcript of Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Liz Glazer on Public Safety and Expanding the DNA Databank

TOP January 27, 2012: Transcript of Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Liz Glazer on Public Safety and Expanding the DNA Databank

Read the transcript from the chat on Friday, January 27 with Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Liz Glazer on Public Safety and Expanding the DNA Database.

Elizabeth Glazer said:
My name is Liz Glazer and I am the Governor’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety. I am one of the members of the Governor’s team working to ensure that New York remains the safest large state in the nation. For the last couple of weeks, I have been traveling around the state talking about an important tool that will help us keep our communities safe - the Governor's proposal to expand the State’s DNA Databank. New York’s Databank has been used to help prosecutors solve more than 2,700 crimes, and DNA evidence has helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers who were wrongfully convicted. But despite these successes, New York has yet to harness the full power of DNA technology. We know that criminals don’t specialize, and that they often commit more than one crime. That’s why taking DNA samples from more convicted offenders will not only solve crimes, but will help us stop crimes from even occurring. Today, we have an opportunity to continue discussing how New York State uses the DNA evidence collected at crime scenes and from convicted offenders to help solve crimes and bring justice to countless survivors.

Question from Rayn in Amsterdam:
Will this law apply to me if I get arrested? Who has to give DNA samples now?

Elizabeth Glazer said:
No, this proposal does not require you to give a DNA sample if you get arrested. Right now, New York's DNA Databank only includes DNA samples from criminals convicted of any Penal Law felony and 36 misdemeanors—which means there are more than 150 crimes that are not included. While the proposed expansion would still only focus on New Yorkers who have been convicted of crimes, it will increase the number of crimes that require a DNA sample to include all felonies and all Penal Law misdemeanors.

Question from Anonymous:
I just read about a triple murder that was solved from more than twenty years ago in the newspaper. If expanding the Databank means more of this, then I say do it!

Elizabeth Glazer said:
Yes, that Westchester County case is a perfect example of the power of DNA technology. Here’s a brief summary for those of you who haven’t heard about the case. Last week, District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced that a man by the name of Francisco Acevedo – a serial killer incarcerated on another charge – was actually the man wanted for killing three women. She said he would never have been identified without the DNA Databank. Now this man did give a DNA sample voluntarily so that he could be paroled, but this case certainly demonstrates why taking DNA samples for criminals convicted other types of felonies – Vehicle and Traffic in this case – and not just crimes from the Penal Law can help solve horrific rapes and murders that sat cold for decades.

Question from Michelle:
Will the proposal require kids involved in family law courts to give a DNA sample?

Elizabeth Glazer said:
No, the Governor’s proposal only applies to those who have been convicted of a crime. It does not require children involved in family court matters, or youthful offenders, to provide a DNA sample.

Question from David in Delmar:
New York State already uses DNA evidence, I don't understand why you need more people's DNA

Elizabeth Glazer said:
New York State’s Databank has had many successes. It has already helped prosecutors solve more than 2,700 crimes, and DNA evidence has helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers. But we have yet to realize the maximum potential of DNA because, under the current law, DNA is collected from only 48 percent of New York’s convicted offenders. Imagine how you would react if you went to a doctor that told you your loved one could not receive a life-saving treatment because state law would only allow half of all New Yorkers to receive it, and you were not in that 50 percent? Well that’s exactly how crime victims across this state feel right now. We have an exceptional tool that can help solve crimes, prevent crimes, help to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and bring justice to victims; but we’re not allowed to use it fifty-two percent of the time.

Question from James in Rochester - Park Avenue:
I don’t like the government having access to my DNA. They don’t need to know my medical history – it’s too BIG BROTHER!

Elizabeth Glazer said:
The Databank won't have your medical history. The DNA profiles maintained in the Databank are merely numeric sequences that cannot be used to identify anything about you except whether you are a man or woman. The profile can’t tell us if you are white or Hispanic, if you have blue or brown eyes, or if you have a disease. The profiles can only be used to identify the perpetrators of crime and as evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.

Question from Helene in Great Neck:
The newspaper says that there are huge backlogs in the police crime labs and they can’t handle an expansion. Is that true?

Elizabeth Glazer said:
There is no backlog at the State Police Crime Lab. The lab can handle processing 10,000 samples a month. The Governor's proposal will bring the monthly total from 3,500 to just under 7,000, well under our capacity.

Question from Bruce:
I was convicted, but my conviction was overturned. Can I get my DNA sample back?

Elizabeth Glazer said:
New York State has a process in place that allows you to write in and request the removal of your sample. You need to provide the certified court order showing that your conviction was reversed and then there is a process in place for the sample to be destroyed. You will get a certification saying that it was destroyed.

Question from Jeff in Troy:
I've made some mistakes in my life and have a criminal record. I haven't committed another crime in more than 30-years and don't plan to. Will I have to give you a DNA sample? And why should I if I haven't been in trouble in more than three decades?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
No. The effective date of the Governor's proposal is October 1, 2012 and it is not retroactive. So only people convicted of the crimes included in the expansion on or after October 1st of this year will be required to submit a DNA sample.
Question from Jerry in North Couintry:
What would happen if the Databank was hacked and all that sensitive, biological information got into the wrong hands?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
The DNA Databank does not store any genetic material or sensitive and personal biological information. DNA samples received are converted into a unique series of numbers – or profiles – and those profiles only reveal if an individual is man or woman. The profiles cannot be used to identify anything about a person’s appearance, their race, their health – if they have a disease like cancer, sickle-cell anemia or Parkinson’s – or their behavior. The Databank also does not maintain any names.
Question from Bonnie in Port Washington:
What happens to a lab worker who uses the DNA Databank inappropriately?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
New York has never had an incident where the security of the Databank was breached. But any tampering with a DNA sample, or non-law enforcement use of the Databank, is a felony crime and punishable by up to four years in prison.
Question from Kristen in New City:
What types of tests are done to get DNA samples? Do you have to give blood?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
It is a simple process that takes less than 5 minutes and only requires convicted offenders to swab the inside of their cheek. That sample is then converted into a unique, numerical profile that is uploaded into the Databank. Convicted offenders do not have to go through a medical procedure or give blood to provide a DNA sample.
Question from Garth in Kingston:
What will happen if you don’t expand the Databank????????????
Elizabeth Glazer said:
Every day we wait to expand the state’s DNA Databank, another cold case goes unresolved, a person wrongly convicted sits in prison, and we risk one of our loved ones falling victim to a crime that could have been prevented.
Question from Cherylrose in Buffalo:
Isn't this a serious invasion of privacy rights?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
No. The Governor’s proposed expansion will only require criminals convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor to give a DNA sample. This proposal does not apply to people who are arrested. The DNA profiles maintained in the Databank are simply numeric sequences that cannot be used to identify anything about a person’s race, appearance, health or behavior. In fact, the Databank doesn't maintain offender’s names, criminal history records or photographs. So no one will know if a person has a profile in the Databank – not even police officers doing traffic stops. The only time the identity of someone in the Databank will be revealed to law enforcement is if that person commits another crime.
Question from Anonymous:
Why do you need to take DNA from people convicted of minor crimes?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
We need to take DNA from all convicted criminals because criminals don’t specialize. We know that rapists and murders also commit minor offenses. This has been proven by our own experiences here in New York State. In 2006, petit larceny was added to the list of offenses that required a DNA sample to be taken. In the last five years, those DNA samples have helped law enforcement solve more than 900 crimes. And we’re not talking about other petit larcenies. We’re talking about 51 murders, 222 sexual assaults, 117 robberies and 407 burglaries. Collecting DNA from people convicted of minor offenses is often our best chance to catch career criminals early on, and stop them from committing more crimes.
Question from Anonymous:
I am concerned about privacy and security. My DNA is my property and I have a right to keep it secure. Can you guarantee that this database will not be hacked, or that the information kept will not be used in an expanded capacity in the future?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
There are safeguards in place to help ensure that the Databank will not be hacked. However, this Databank does not store any genetic material or sensitive and personal biological information. As we responded to a previous question, the Databank cannot be used to identify anything about a person’s appearance, their race, their health – if they have a disease like cancer, sickle-cell anemia or Parkinson’s – or their behavior.
Question from John in syracuse:
What do you mean when you say DNA can prevent crimes? If you're taking it from people after they're convicted, how could that crime have been stopped?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
That’s a very good question. We will not be able to prevent someone from committing their first crime. But DNA evidence can help us prevent their third, fourth and even fifth. That’s because, on average, offenders linked to crimes through the DNA Databank have had three prior non-qualifying convictions (meaning they were convicted of crimes that do not require a DNA sample to be taken, according to New York State Law) before they were finally convicted of an offense that required a DNA sample to be collected. Collecting DNA from the broadest range of criminals will help us stop criminals early in their careers.
Question from Jessica in North Country:
Deputy Secretary Glazer - you keep talking about the power of DNA. What are some real life examples from our neighborhoods?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
It’s funny you should ask. I was at an event with the New York State Sheriffs’ Association this past Wednesday. While I was there, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told a story about a career burglar who thought he could outsmart the police: A few years ago, investigators from his office solved a burglary by tracking muddy footprints from the crime scene. The man who committed the crime was convicted and served time in prison. After he got out, he committed another burglary. But thinking he learned from his first mistake, he wore gloves and took off his shoes. Unfortunately for him, he forgot his shoes at the scene. The officers were able to get a DNA sample from those shoes and the State Police Crime Lab was able to match that DNA from the crime scene evidence to the DNA sample the man was required to provide after being convicted of the first burglary. As Sheriff Apple put it, the burglar “thought he could outsmart us, but this shows that you can’t outsmart DNA”. There are literally thousands of stories like this throughout our State.
Question from Showcat in Brooklyn:
Why do we have to do this now? What's the rush?
Elizabeth Glazer said:
Why should we wait? Right now, there are tens-of-thousands of unresolved crimes in New York State – almost 40,000 to be exact. Many of these crimes include rapes and murders that have gone unresolved for years. There are also thousands of survivors who walk around looking over their shoulders because their attackers are still on the street, often committing more crimes. Expanding the State’s Databank is our opportunity to make an immediate difference in the lives of thousands of crime victims and prevent thousands more New Yorkers from ever being a crime victim in the first place.
Elizabeth Glazer said:
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. It's been great to hear your questions, and to be able to directly address your concerns. For those of you who are still interested in learning more about DNA and the Governor's proposal, I encourage you to visit the Governor's website, NYGETINVOLVED.COM. There, you'll be able to track the DNA success stories in your counties, watch videos that highlight the impact DNA technology has had in the lives of fellow New Yorkers and continue the#DNAStopsCrime conversation.