The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are using a groundbreaking tech that will grant the ability to predict traits of criminals solely from DNA left at a crime scene when no matching records are found.
The AFP will be the first Australian law enforcement agency to use the new technology, allowing for crime scene analysts to narrow down individuals by looking at unchangeable qualities found in DNA—including gender, biogeographical ancestry, eye colour, and, soon, hair colour.
The technique, known as Massively Parallel Sequencing (MPS), became commercially available in 2005 and garnered significant traction over the last decade in forensics due to its ability to rapidly crack degraded DNA samples, or even samples containing multiple contributors.
Most importantly, while traditional DNA profiling only serves to compare two samples for a match, MPS will allow police to develop a general picture of persons of interest in order to help identify perpetrators based on physical appearance alone.
This means police will also have a better chance of success in missing person cases or when identifying unknown human remains.
Lead Scientist behind MPS at AFP Forensics and Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra, Paul Roffey, said the capabilities of MPS would broaden in the future and allow for more detailed profile predictions.
“Over the next decade, our team will be looking to widen prediction capabilities to include traits such as age, body mass index and height,” he said.
“We will also be seeking opportunities to provide fine detail predictions for facial metrics such as distance between the eyes, eye, nose and ear shape, lip fullness, and cheek structure”.
The AFP has also declared it will be maintaining public trust and confidence with the biotechnology and has stated a new process is in place to safeguard genetic information and minimise privacy impacts.
AFP’s growing toolkit in tracking down criminals has most recently also included increased powers in locating individuals through their social media posts and smartphone call records.
The cyber tech had been used earlier this year in a law enforcement consortium composed of the AFP, the FBI, and others spanning Australia, Europe, and the United States in an international sting operation involving a total of 9,000 officers across 18 different countries.
Dubbed “Operation Ironside,” bikies, mafia members, and even reality TV stars were caught as part of an “industrial-scale” organised crime network after police rolled out an encrypted messaging app to the criminal underworld—giving law enforcement access to secret communications between syndicates.
Australian police alone netted 224 offenders on 526 charges, seizing over 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 firearms and weapons, and around $45 million in cash.