Drug offenders face DNA tests in crime crackdown

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The Independent Online
DNA SAMPLES are to be taken from all convicted drug dealers and users in one of Britain's largest police force areas.

In what is believed to be the first mass-testing of drug offenders, an estimated 1,500 profiles are expected to be added to the national DNA database during the next three months. The profiles will be checked against DNA samples taken from the scene of unsolved crimes to see if there is a link.

If the pilot programme, which begins in the West Midlands in October, proves successful it is expected to be adopted by other police forces.

The initiative follows nationwide research earlier this year which found that more than 60 per cent of criminal suspects who agreed to be tested for illegal drugs proved positive.

Home Office figures suggest that a third of property crimes are carried out by drug users needing to fund their habit - an annual total of about pounds 2.5bn. A typical heroin or crack cocaine addict is likely to steal property worth between pounds 10,000 and pounds 20,000 a year.

Research carried out by West Midlands Police, during a month in Solihull, revealed that half of 108 people arrested were regular heroin users. Between them they had accumulated property from thefts and burglaries worth pounds 11m.

From next month anyone who is charged or cautioned in the West Midlands for possessing, dealing or transporting drugs will be added to the national database. Until now forces have tended to use DNA sampling for violent crimes, sexual offences and burglary. Tests are not routinely carried out for drug offences, partly because of the expense.

Detective Inspector Richard Leary, West Midlands' scientific development officer, said: "After the trial is launched, anybody who is financing a drug habit or a drugs network through crime is liable to be linked, not only with a particular drugs crime, but also with other crimes used to finance their lifestyle."