After DNA's proved success in solving violent crimes, Dallas police, the district attorney's office, and the county crime lab are teaming up to discover whether it can help solve auto thefts, too, reports the Dallas Morning News. Authorities won't target all stolen cars. A task force called Forensic Evidence Auto Recovery, or FEAR, will target theft rings that salvage vehicles for parts. By focusing on cars dismantled by chop shops and using DNA to link crimes, prosecutors can pursue the more serious charge of engaging in organized crime rather than a car theft charge, said Dallas County prosecutor Rocky Jones.
Dallas police Sgt. David Landry, a supervisor in the auto theft unit, said tying suspects to multiple cases makes a stronger case for a longer sentence and is harder to disprove. "If I can link one person with one car, you may be able to explain it away for whatever reason," Landry said. "But it's harder to explain several." In 2008, Dallas police solved nearly 11 percent of the more than 12,000 car thefts, slightly below the national average of 13 percent. Using DNA should increase the percentage of crimes solved and prosecuted. A grant from the National Institute of Justice is aimed at getting Dallas and New York police and prosecutors to target auto thefts. A previous NIJ study found that when DNA was collected at property crime scenes, arrests and identifications doubled, as did prosecutions. Unlike Dallas, the New York Police Department is not targeting auto theft rings; officers there will use the grant money on vehicles recovered after they're stolen.