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BBC's technology correspondent, Christine McGourty
"In future, DNA could be far more useful"
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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 06:19 GMT
Crime-fighting's hi-tech future
Eectronic tags BBC
Electronic tags: The future of crime prevention?
Electronic tagging, DNA analysis and recognition systems based on retinas or fingerprints could all be used to tackle crime in the 21st Century.

These are some of the futuristic crime-fighting methods suggested by a panel which is looking at the future of crime and crime prevention for the UK Government.

The Foresight Crime Prevention Panel has published a consultation document to encourage debate about the future of crime.

It is today's research and development that will produce the crime-resistant products of the future.

Lord Sainsbury
Science minister
Launching the consultation document Lord Sharman of Redlynch, chairman of the panel, said: "Technology offers us a chance to beat crime - but it will take innovation, understanding and education."

The document also highlights how advances in science and technology will bring new opportunities to criminals.

Crimes like theft and fraud using computers will occur more quickly meaning it will be more difficult to catch the perpetrators.

Odour tracking

It predicts that crime will transcend national borders and that electronic services will become direct targets for crime.

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke said: "By trying to envisage what the crimes of the future may be we are one step closer to preventing them."

But the paper also looks at the technologies that could help prevent crime in the future.

These include electronic tagging, DNA analysis, "biometric" recognition systems based on retinas or fingerprints and the tracking of odours that are unique to an individual.

Electronic tags BBC
Electronic tags have already been tested in the UK
The electronic tagging of criminals has already been introduced in the UK.

In the first 11 months of 1999, 14,464 prisoners were released early with tags following the introduction of the Home Detention Curfew scheme at the start of the year.

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service said the scheme had a 95% success rate. Another crime prevention method discussed in the report is DNA analysis.

At the moment, DNA taken from the scene of a crime can be compared to a sample from a suspect or any held on a database.

In the future, the report predicts, DNA could be used to provide all types of information about a criminal from age, height or race to hair and eye colour.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Minister for Science, said: "It is today's research and development that will produce the crime-resistant products of the future.

"We must take every opportunity we can to use science and technology to reduce crime and improve the quality of our lives."

The consultation runs until 14 July. The panel aims to publish its report in November.

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See also:

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