For Immediate Release: March 6, 2012
GOVERNOR CUOMO LAUNCHES ONLINE MAP THAT HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED TO PASS THE DNA DATABANK EXPANSION BILL AS CRIME VICTIMS COME TO ALBANY TO PUSH FOR ITS PASSAGE
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today launched an online map featuring videos and written testimonials from crime victims, family members, victims' advocates and law enforcement officials throughout the state to demonstrate the importance of passing the bill that expands the State's DNA Databank.
Survivors of violent crime, family members who lost victims to violence and victims' advocacy groups also came to Albany to meet with lawmakers to push for the passage of the legislation.
The map showing the testimonials is available at www.DNAstopscrime.com.
"I want to thank everyone who shared their story as part of this important website- it takes courage to relive these memories for the sake of keeping all New Yorkers safe," Governor Cuomo said. "This bill expands the already existing DNA Databank which can help get criminals off the street and help keep innocent people out of jail and that's why every District Attorney and County Sheriff in the state supports this plan. We need this tool to ensure that justice is served in the State of New York."
Along with victims of violent crime, representatives from the following groups also traveled to Albany on Tuesday, including the Joyful Heart Foundation, the Crime Victims Treatment Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Safe Horizon, the Crime Victim Assistance Center in Binghamton, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program of Lewis County Opportunities in Lowville, Orange County Probation Department Crime Victim Assistance Program and the Child Advocacy Center of Putnam County.
Since New York's Databank was created in 1996, it has helped prosecutors obtain nearly 2,900 convictions and helped to exonerate 27 innocent New Yorkers. But New York State has yet to realize the full potential of its DNA Databank because state law only permits DNA to be collected from 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime. Currently, only those convicted of a felony or one of 36 misdemeanors under the Penal Law must provide a DNA sample.
The Governor's proposal would require DNA samples to be collected from anyone convicted of all remaining Penal Law misdemeanors and any felony in any state law, not just felonies under the Penal Law. That includes such crimes as felony driving while intoxicated under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, aggravated animal cruelty under the Agriculture and Markets Law, and prescription drug offenses under the Public Health Law. The New York State Senate passed the DNA Databank Expansion Bill on Jan. 31, 2012.
Elizabeth Glazer, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, said, "Every day we wait to expand the state's DNA Databank, another cold case goes unresolved, a person wrongly convicted sits in prison, and we risk one of our loved ones falling victim to a crime that could have been prevented. How do we know this? Because we have evidence that shows every time we expanded the Databank, we solved more crimes. It's just that simple."
Tina Stanford, Director of the New York State Office of Victim Services, said, "The enactment of Governor Cuomo's DNA proposal will be an excellent opportunity for New York State to exemplify the 2012 National Crime Victims' Rights Week theme: Extending the Vision. Reaching Every Victim. On behalf of the entire Office of Victim Services, which works to provide an important safety net for crime victims who have nowhere else to turn for help, I proudly support this proposal and believe it will make a huge difference in the life of crime victims and a positive impact on public safety for all New Yorkers."
Tynetta Megginson, daughter of a murder victim, said, "The dynamics of my family changed when a phone call was received that my mother was found murdered and strangled in her apartment. For seven and a half long years, my family waited in agony as the detectives searched, combed the streets, interviewed several people, and to no avail. Xavier Jones had committed several lesser crimes after murdering my mother, crimes that could have gotten him convicted and brought to justice a lot sooner and that would have decreased the amount of time my family suffered in pain, the sleepless nights, that my children endured, not knowing if it was the mailman, if it was the next door neighbor, if it was a friend who had committed such an atrocity towards our family. They say this is a common sense bill, so I ask you, use common sense and allow this expansion, allow this bill to pass."
Ann M., mother of a rape survivor, said, "I had to wait for 10 years for the man that raped and assaulted my daughter to be brought to justice. I cannot begin to express the suffering my family endured living with the fear that man could come back and hurt us again. We have the ability to end that kind of waiting for New Yorkers. We have the ability to identify more violent criminals. Why aren't we doing it? Why should New Yorkers have to wait any longer for the DNA Databank to include all felonies and Penal Law misdemeanor convictions so we can catch violent criminals more swiftly? Some people would hold up passage of this important bill even though they essentially agree with it. I don't understand that. This is just too important to play politics with. Every day that this common sense expansion is delayed by politics, more lives are lost, more people are victimized and more criminals that could be caught and put behind bars are left out on the streets. After over a decade, New Yorkers like me shouldn't have to wait any longer. We need the State Legislature to pass the expansion of the DNA Databank right now."
The last expansion in 2006, which made some low-level misdemeanors DNA-eligible, resulted in the apprehension of hundreds of criminals. For example
- DNA samples taken from individuals convicted of the misdemeanor crime of petit larceny have been linked to 998 crimes, including 53 murders, 223 sexual assaults, 123 robberies, and 427 burglaries.
- And DNA samples taken from individuals convicted of second-degree criminal trespass have been linked to 30 homicides, 111 sexual assaults and 123 burglaries, among other crimes.
Taking a DNA sample is not an invasive process: convicted offenders rub the inside of their cheek with a swab. The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center then converts that material into a numerical profile, unique to that offender. The profile is only used to match convicted offenders to evidence found at a crime scene, and link crimes that may involve the same perpetrator. The profile cannot be used for any other purpose because the DNA is extracted from locations on the strand that cannot identify the person's race, appearance, health or behavior.
The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany can process 10,000 DNA samples from convicted offenders a month. The Governor's proposed expansion will bring the monthly total to less than 7,000 and will not create a backlog.
If enacted, the Governor' proposal would take effect October 1, and it would not be retroactive. In addition, the proposal would not apply to children involved in Family Court matters or to youthful offenders.