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UK Police Want DNA of 'Potential Offenders' 578

mrogers writes "British police want to collect DNA samples from children as young as five who 'exhibit behavior indicating they may become criminals in later life'. A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers argued that since some schools already take pupils' fingerprints, the collection and permanent storage of DNA samples was the logical next step. And of course, if anyone argues that branding naughty five-year-olds as lifelong criminals will stigmatize them, the proposed solution will be to take samples from all children."
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UK Police Want DNA of 'Potential Offenders'

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  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:42PM (#22768186) Journal
    I know someone who was in prison for a non-felony, got a job through a temp agency was a great worker for Amerigas that people enjoyed. When his temp agency stint was up, they were to consider him for an official hire. Problem? Oh he was a criminal once so even though he was a great worker, they fired him, and wouldn't rehire him through the temp agency.

  • by Lurker2288 ( 995635 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:47PM (#22768216)
    Maybe someone more knowledgable about forensic genetics can help me here, but my understanding was that at the current level of sophistication, the main value of genetic fingerprinting (which is less specific than full sequencing, but also more robust in the face of contamination, degradation, etc.) was in excluding known suspects (i.e., ruling out the butler) rather than in identifying suspects prospectively (which would be the main reason to set up a database like this). In a country the size of the UK, wouldn't this produce false positives that could be used to argue against the validity of the system?
  • Life imitates Art (Score:2, Interesting)

    by niks42 ( 768188 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:49PM (#22768242)
    Did I read somewhere in the article about these five-year olds being evaluated for their future criminal propensity by three submerged psychic women?
  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:51PM (#22768262)
    Your missing the point, and I can see a lot of people modding you down for it too, even though your questions are fair.

    You are relying on, and trusting the governments. They have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Reconcile that.

    Furthermore, how does one judge the "potential" of a five-year old child? Scare-The-Bad-Out-Of-Them factor? Do you have kids? A five year old can be yelled at repeatedly for a minutes till they are crying and they will perform exactly the same act 10 minutes later. Bill Cosby said it best, "they are brain damaged!".

    You are hoping that they will destroy the records at age 18, but I doubt that. It is far too valuable to have DNA records available on everybody. Why would they wait to identify a suspect in a crime, obtain his DNA information by force or trickery, and then compare it against the evidence?

    It sounds way too much like the innocent-have-nothing-to-fear argument, IMO.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:00PM (#22768340)
    That's the first thing I thought, too. I remember reading about a study someone did on this once. I can't recall all the details, but it went something like this: The researcher went to a classroom of elementary school children and told their teacher that, based on some sort of test, certain children were predispositioned to be intellectual 'bloomers,' whereas others, well, weren't as bright.
    Well, the test the kids were given to determine their potential was bogus. Who would bloom and who wouldn't were chosen at random. But, at the end of the year, the kids who were supposed to be smart were scoring higher than the others, despite the fact that they were chosen at random. Subtle social forces affected them that much.
    Moral of the story is to beware of self fulfilling prophecies. If you treat someone like they might be a criminal, they most likely will. And, of course, people will just say that's proof of the program working.
    Hey, wasn't Einstein a problem child? Didn't work out too bad for him.
  • by elh_inny ( 557966 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:05PM (#22768386) Homepage Journal
    I currently working on my Masters Thesis, touching, among other things on issues related to totalitarian societies.
    Even very quick research shows that Great Britain already resembles the grim visions of '1984', 'Brasil' or 'A Clockwork Orange'.
    CCTV is widespread, despite showing little or no effect on stopping crime, its usage is spreading.
    Old people are already testing the high-frequency buzzers, to annoy and scare teenagers (it's a prime example of being guilty by default).
    A visit to any UK international airport terminal leaves no doubt either - you are a dangerous terrorist until proven otherwise.

    And now this, which isn't really new either, just a development on what's been going on for some quite time already.

    And worst of all, most UK (or US for that matter) citizens don't seem to mind or care. This is very much reminiscent of a pre-WWII Germany.

    I don't mean to sound radical or anything, but remember:
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
  • by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:09PM (#22768410)
    I think you are right, but since I have karma to burn, I'll provide a counter argument to the idea of collecting DNA for population studies. Profiling people for crime is a rotten idea because it may provide unintended negative outcomes. Profiling people in general, however, might be an interesting experiment into the roles of nature vs. nurture. Maybe there are biomarkers that promote aggressive, submissive, intelligent, funny, etc behaviors. Knowing what markers someone has might enable society to cultivate that person to their fullest potential. The argument about whether we should study these traits, and how to setup comprehensive outcomes measure, shouldn't be dismissed because it is such an emotionally charged issue. Maybe our focus shouldn't be on what makes us bad but what makes us better; you'll notice that there is less of an issue in dealing with genetic treatments for obesity. Sadly, this topic is ripe for abuse by even the most well-intentioned individual. I think that the first question must be, "Should we do this and what are the moral implications?" not "Can we do this?".
  • Sigh..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IHC Navistar ( 967161 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:49PM (#22768706)
    Whatever happened to *REAL* police work? Every time they come up with some way to "control/solve" crimes, it winds up being a way to make the job of a cop as easy as pushing a button. Plus, it turns into something that is wayyy more intrusive, as if everybody is a criminal (or potential criminal, in this case):

    1) CCTV cameras lining city streets.
    2) Self-defense devices (Handguns, knives, tasers, stun guns, pepper spray) are either illegal or heavily regulated to the point where they are defacto illegal.
    3) RFID tags in Passports can be used to track whereabouts of the holder.
    4) Automated toll tags (like FasTrack) record road/bridge uses.
    5) Traffic Cameras automatically cite "violators", doing the job of the police officer instead.

    Why don't cops spend time tracking ACTUAL CRIMINALS and solving ACTUAL CRIMES, instead of grouping everyone together and tracking them as "potential criminals" and waiting for potential crimes?
  • by memorycardfull ( 1187485 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:53PM (#22768740)
    It is easier to take people's rights away when they are children and have limited rights to begin with. It makes perfect sense to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2008 @08:03PM (#22768830)
    There are many proven psychological reasons why this would cause a vast amount of harm to the development of these children

    I think, perhaps, that they very much intend profiling children to have a long term psychological impact; though perhaps not the one you point out. More a slow erosion of resistance to Government intrusion. For example:

    30 years from now, if this comes to pass, the majority of that profiled generation will not have been made victims of the system. They will hear about it happening, but for the most part they will remark "Oh, another mixup, bloody wankers." When it comes time to submit their children, they will do so without question; it has been commonplace for 30 years, and nothing bad ever happened to them. They are not criminals after all, and despite its flaws, the system appears to work.

    But it's 30 years later, DNA profiling is old hat; tracking chips: that's the new big thing in the police community. And it has been (hypothetically) happening to convicted felons for years; but as the police asked for DNA samples to be taken pro-actively, so now will these parents be asked to implant their 5 year olds. If enough of today's parents accept that this DNA database is reasonable, enough of those children will probably consent to having their children chipped.

    I think I'm being awfully generous thinking they would wait 30 years on the tracking implant thing; but I think my point is clear.
  • Re:For fuck's sake (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @08:04PM (#22768852)
    It worked for Scotland. Labour was kicked out, and replaced by the SNP. To get any decision approved now requires some cross-trading with the Conservatives and the Liberal-Democrats. After being used to making all the decisions, Labour now refuse to participate in such horse-trading.
  • Re:For fuck's sake (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @08:18PM (#22768942)
    Nice idea, but it carries within itself the seeds of failure.

    If such a scheme were enacted, families that opted in would, almost certainly, be those which did not tend to produce criminals. Families more likely to include those with criminal tendencies almost certainly wouldn't be interested.

    I don't like to generalize, but in my experience, people who commit crime tend to do so often, and tend also to belong to families within which such behavior is considered acceptable. There are families in my town known to be mostly composed of members who commit crime (sad but true). Why I don't know, but the chances of those families willingly co-operating with any such scheme are non existent.

    My experience may be limited in this respect, but I have no-one else's experience to draw on.
  • I'll agree that meth is evil shit, and definitely the most evil street drug I can think of. Lots of personal experience watching people destroy themselves with it, including a couple of funerals. That said, it's still not the state's right to tell someone what they can't put in their own body. Want to regulate drug use for public officials, police officers, members of the military? Fine with me. For private citizens? Hell, no. Once someone commits a crime that harms someone else, lock 'em up, but not before. I also don't believe we should see our taxes go toward medical treatment or welfare for people who screw themselves up with drugs. It was their personal choice to put the crap in their bodies, and they should have considered the consequences ahead of time. Not my problem, nor my responsibility to pay for it.

    Your tax dollars are funding lengthy prison stays for people whose only crime was possession and/or use of drugs. They didn't rob anybody, break into anyone's house, assault anyone, or perpetrate any other act of direct harm. The were found to be in possession of chemicals or plants, and you'll continue to pay long after they're released back into society considering the increased crime rate for people who can't get a job to save their life due to a criminal background. Meanwhile, prison corporations keep on raking in the big bucks to build more facilities to house more inmates. Good for them, bad for us and society as a whole.

    Do I have any sympathy for someone who screws himself up with drug abuse? Nope, and I never will. I've got family members who went down that road, and I don't even have sympathy for them. However, my lack of sympathy only extends to the non-drug crimes they committed and damage to their own bodies from drug abuse. I do have sympathy for cases where they were locked up for nothing more than possession.

    Let natural selection do its job. Sure beats paying into a system that profits more with every user that gets nabbed.
  • So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @08:36PM (#22769034) Homepage
    The police want to do crazy things all the time. Mostly to make their jobs easier (and, to be fair... almost every profession is guilty of this to an extent).

    Fortunately for us, most nations today heavily regulate their police force, and control their government through a voting parliamentary body, along with a system of checks and balances.

    If this notion gained the support of a large portion of parliament or the population at large, it would be legitimate cause for concern. Fortunately for us, this is not the case.

    Come on slashdot. Prove that you're better than some Left-Wing version of Fox news, and stop posting flamebaited articles that have little to no real significance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2008 @08:59PM (#22769146)
    As my Karma is abysmal:

    If I just said 'The thin end of the wedge' that would be rather presumptious (and facetious) of me.

    Your reference says (my emphasis) "Among the key elements of Nazism.

    With respect, DNA profiling of everybody would allow (to some extent at least) a form of eugenics (restricted opportunities for those with a genetic predisposition to certain diseases perhaps?) and the wholesale buy-in of DNA evidence as being somehow incontravertible (that REALLY IS how most 'ordinary' people think of it) would allow the unscrupulous (i.e. the exact sort of people running the Anglo Saxon world right now) to falsify forensic evidence just about any time they felt like it.

    Just for the record, I think politics is a filthy business. Greed on one side and envy on the other. Its all a crock of shit. Once upon a time I used to believe in 'the system' and I even voted conservative. Then I woke up and realised tha tmost of the trouble and strife in my own country - let alone the rest of the world - is carefully orchestrated to maintain vested interests with the least possible amount of effort.

    Amongst other things the general population have been nonsensed into going along with, biased news (like the BBC 'forgetting' to mention a certain 'found dead at a beauty spot' senior police officer was involved in an investigation into the misuse of British airspace by the CIA and the idea that 'If you have nothing to hide, why be afraid' are highly likely to be the sign of something to come that will make 'Emperor Palpatine' look like father christmas.

    In case you didn't already know, you may want to investigate how Nazi Germany was funded and also how it was facilitated by certain corporations I could mention. They're still around today and they want a slice of the action in this war too.

    By the way, the "interesting" data in my routers log files and the seemingly at random activity of my network storage is just a figment of my imagination. If I really had something to hide, I'd be using OpenBSD, encryption and (for ultra paranoia) hard drives encased in thermite etc. instead of plain old vanilla WinShit XP.

    Wake up and smell the shit - we're in it up to our nostrils and that's not because we find ourselves lying down in a bed of roses that just got some fertiliser.
  • Re:Law & Order (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @09:12PM (#22769232) Journal
    This is about totalitarianism, which is a crime.

    I wonder how safe from this we are here in the US? To my mind DNA is the epitome of "personal effects" as covered by the fourth amendment. (I would ask any lawyers here to explain the laws around requesting DNA samples.) Don't our British friends have something parallel about what types of things require a warrant to collect? Is any judge going to issue a warrant for evidence from a five year old?
  • The enemy is within. (Score:0, Interesting)

    by twitter ( 104583 ) * on Sunday March 16, 2008 @09:12PM (#22769236) Homepage Journal

    Vaporizing the UK won't eliminate the rich and powerful people who promote this kind of thing. They are your neighbors who think they can get away with it. Their weapons are fear and economic punishment. They must be fought with ridicule and love.

  • Re:US politics... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hucko ( 998827 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:29PM (#22769692)

    One of those ( []) makes the point that GDP had a more significant factor on IQ than did religion. But you would expect that as it is primarily a Christian organisation. Perhaps you should be so curious as to read the articles and not just assume you understand from the title...

    Secondly, there have been a significant number of religious types who have managed to be considered the 'father' of a branch of science as well as others who have demonstrated a considerable ability to out think their collegues. (Don't be fooled into thinking that atheism began with Darwin; it has a long history.)

    Thirdly; (personal anecdote) I am continually frustrated by my secular colleagues (who have no trouble mocking me for my 'inability to think for myself' ) reluctance to uncover why things happen. They are happy that 'science' has the answers and argue on the basis of 'authority'! (Logic be damned!)

    Because those who do not subscribe easily to dogmatic lines of thought are naturally more inquisitive, they are the ones more likely to discover new facts about the world.

    Apparently I am a anomaly as I am frequently told to just believe it works, don't worry about how. My peers are wearied of my attention to details. I'm also often accused of being dogmatic -- rarely in regards to religion though (Perhaps I should develop a delusion of grandeur!). Most of the articles conclusions would be better subscribed to education, not religion.

    Religion's affect on education is a better measure (Yes, I believe education should be separated from religion -- I know many Christians, some atheists, a few Muslims and several pagans. No one's background should inspire confidence in their ability to think -- they are still human.) as religion is unfortunately very susceptible to bureaucracy which is inverse to intelligence. jk.

  • Re:For fuck's sake (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JonathanR ( 852748 ) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:31PM (#22769706)

    A burning tire around a camera is tant-amount to an act of terrorism by virtue of its lack of shiny-happiness and thus is to be treated with suspicion rather than as food for thought.
    A better civil disobedience act, more in the vein of The Chaser's War on Everything would be for a team to swan around the city posing as a CCTV camera cleaning crew, albeit using a can of black spray paint instead of proper cleaning equipment.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:33PM (#22769722)

    An excerpt from Sundiver....

    Uncle Jeremey was telling about how the old Bureaucracy had decreed that everyone alive would be tested for "violent tendencies" and that all who failed would from then on be under constant surveillance -- Probation.
    Jacob could remember the exact words his uncle had spoken that afternoon, when Alice had come sneaking into the library, excitement radiating from her twelve-year-old face like something about to go nova.
    "... They went to great efforts to convince the populace," Jeremey said in a low rumbling voice, "that the laws would cut down on crime. And they did have that effect. Individuals with radio transmitters in their rumps often think twice about causing trouble to their neighbors.
  • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @12:44AM (#22770316)
    So what you are saying is: "What, me worry"? After all, in 100 years such repressive regimes will extinguish themselves? Frankly, I take a less historical approach. At the rate things are going, we are all slipping right down that slippery slope into a true police state. And yes, it is exactly like boiling a frog. Except there is no real chance for most of us to jump out of the pot. At least in the days of Nazi Germany there was somewhere to go, somewhere to escape to.
  • A few thoughts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @04:00AM (#22770940)
    - amidst all the lame jokes and the general mistrust Americans have to government.

    Society, when you get right down to the bare bones of it, is a simple extension of the primitive 'clan' that we know from the other apes, especially the chimpanzees. A group like that is only stable if the members trust each other at some fundamental level. Yes, there will be squabbles and cliques, and they may steal from each other and bully the weakest, but everybody has a fundamental trust in the group, which they don't have in strangers. The same is true about human society - it is built on trust; if this trust is lacking in a society, it will simply fall apart. Perhaps this is happening in America? I don't know, but seeing that America is still one nation I'd say that the fundamental trust is still in place.

    Anyway - the question about DNA is one about trust. The government is irrelevant here, governments change all the time, at least every four years; but the people around you don't - the people who will have accecss to your information will be more or less the same. If you trust the society you live in, you shouldn't really mind letting others know your DNA. Having everybody's DNA profile, and indeed all other personal information, in one, central database does offer some objective benefits. It will be a lot easier to identify a person, of course, and it would potentially be possible to identify a number of disease risks etc. On the downside is the fact that not all members of society are worthy of such trust, and they will use this information to exploit people.

    I'm am not wise enough to see whether the benefits are great enough to justify the risks; but that is what it all boils down to: trust or no trust.
  • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @05:23AM (#22771244)

    This sounds like the police proposing completely outlandish things, which the citizenry immediately shouts down, but it desensitizes them to things like tracking their children with GPS units, which they voluntarily buy [], without the government even telling them they have to.
    I'm a fierce advocate of civil liberties, but I would have bought such a system had it been available when my kids were younger. Not to spy on them, but what parent is not worried when their kids first start walking to school, first start travelling on their own on buses and trains, and so on? More: my son has learning difficulties, and is having to learn to cope with independent travel. If he goes wrong (if there are diversions to his usual route, for instance), he can phone us up but could have trouble reading the station signs where he has ended up. With technology like this we'd know where he was and be able to tell him what to do. Technology isn't always evil, you know!
  • by SoulRider ( 148285 ) on Monday March 17, 2008 @12:19PM (#22774118)
    Heck I got to see Maria Von Trapp talk in the mid 80's, even back then she was claiming that America was starting to look like pre-WWII Germany. That was 20 some years ago, I would imagine we are just about 1 pep rally away by now.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.