Asking people to take DNA tests in search of criminals


Similar to many like-minded businesses, American FamilyTreeDNA now offers genealogists and other interested parties the opportunity to test their DNA.

Potential customers are being urged to submit a saliva test to help the FBI find criminals.

“The Golden State Killer” was apprehended in 2018 when the FBI checked DNA traces against a commercial DNA base. Since then a number of criminals have been arrested as a result of this new form of detection.

The perpetrator nicknamed “The Golden State Killer” ravaged California in the period from 1974 to 1986. He killed at least 12 women and raped around 50.

Almost 30 years later he was identified as Joseph James DeAngelo. He was then 72 years old and was partially revealed to the FBI through a genealogy database called GEDmatch.

What makes such DNA databases so valuable for the authorities is that they can find suspects even without the person having submitted a DNA test. As long as a close family member has submitted a saliva sample or the like, the investigating authority will come far closer to “the culprit”.

Read also: DNA from genealogical databases uncover immigrants’ origin

FamilyTreeDNA utilizes the arrests to secure new customers

-If you are one of the millions of people who have taken a DNA test, your help can provide the missing link, says Edward Smart in a short appeal on the FamilyTreeDNA’ web site. Edward Smart is the father of Elizabeth Smart who disappeared without a trace as a 14-year-old.

Earlier this year it was revealed that FamilyTreeDNA had entered into an agreement with the FBI. The agreement was discreetly made in 2018. It allows the FBI to test the DNA evidence against the database. Now FamilyTreeDNA is marketing this in a quest to reach new customers.

For the FBI, this is a very good deal. FamilyTreeDNA has about 2 million saliva samples. This way the FBI also gets access to DNA from persons that have not yet been arrested.

More than the FBI has access

FamilyTreeDNA now has its own site where they inform their policy of allowing authorities to access the DNA base.

Here it emerges that the company does not set the limit to only the FBI. They also allow other US police authorities to access their DNA material.

The access is only given separately in the cases where police authorities are investigating one of the following issues:

  • Identification of a deceased person
  • Sex Crimes
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping of children

Swedish police inspired to follow in the FBI’s footsteps

The chief officer of the cold-case group of the Swedish police known as Region South opened up last year the possibility of using genealogy to track down murderers. This statement came in the wake of the FBI’s arrest of “The Golden State Killer”.

Region South of the Swedish police has at all times about 130 homicide investigations going on. In several of these, the police have secured DNA material.