DNA is often a clincher in convicting the guilty or freeing the innocent.
Even in Greater Trail when blood or other secretions are left behind at a crime scene, attending officers will swab for DNA. Or, for the more complex cases, a forensic identification team from Nelson is called in.
Either way, samples are sent to an RCMP lab elsewhere in Canada for testing, then used as prosecutorial evidence during court proceedings in the Rossland court house.
“This is probably one of the best things in police work that’s come about in the last number of years,” says Sgt. Darren Oelke. “While it may not have solved a crime locally, we certainly used it when we had a suspect. So once somebody’s identified, the DNA is sent off and just confirms what we knew.”
Oelke recalled when DNA solved a case while he was on the job in Prince George, the city he left a year ago to take on the sergeant position in Trail.
Police obtained DNA profiles from three sexual assaults involving an unknown assailant, he began.
“We happened to be looking at this guy for some other reason and we got his DNA,” Oelke explained. “It matched all three of the sexual assaults, and we solved the case.”
Now, the most powerful criminal justice tool in cases that range from break and enters to assaults and homicide is taking centre court in discord between federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Historically, through the RCMP, the federal government provided DNA service to police at no cost.
Towns and cities, no matter the size, weren’t on the hook to pay for the service because the province kicked in $1.3 million annually to cover the balance.
That all changes Jan. 1.
DNA costs will be downloaded to municipalities like Trail, following a federal revision of the funding model that has less dollars going into the DNA testing program.
Locally, that leaves taxpayers on the hook for a few thousand dollars. While that number is fairly low now, it will most likely grow over time because using DNA has expanded from the most serious crimes to lesser offenses.
“Labs have become advanced enough that they’ll use DNA on break and enters or property crimes like a stolen vehicle,” says Oelke.
“And I am assuming the back log of cases is getting better because they’ve allowed us over the years to submit less and less serious offences for DNA analysis. They’ve opened the door for us to submit more and they are able to process more.”
The province will continue to subsidize the DNA program, but less federal dollars shifts about $2.9 million to cities with populations greater than 5,000.
At this year’s Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the matter was considered a significant oversight on the province’s part since the decision to transfer costs with-