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News Scan

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Virginia Governor Approves Familial DNA to Help Solve Crimes:  Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post reports Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that new computer software will allow the state to search its DNA database for familial DNA matches.  This technique will allow authorities to look for matches in the database that suggest that a family member of a person in the database should be considered a suspect.  California and Colorado currently use familial DNA searches, but the method is prohibited in other states due to privacy concerns.

Florida Commission to Decide on Photo Lineup Bill:   Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel reports the Florida Innocence Commission will decide today whether or not to support a bill that would change the way police agencies conduct photo lineups.  Currently, a witness is given a photo lineup with six photos, but this bill would require an officer to show one photo at a time.  Also, it would require agencies to have someone administer the photo lineup that does not know which photo is the suspect.  The commission studied twelve Florida cases in which criminals who were convicted and sentenced to prison and were later released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.  In 75 percent of those cases, an eye-witness identification was wrong.  Commission member William Snyder states, "The way cops currently do photo lineups in Florida is fundamentally flawed." 

New Jersey Looks to New Model for Crime Investigations:  AP writer David Porter reports that a sudden increase in carjackings last December in New Jersey has encouraged an aggressive change to deal with crime in Newark and other northern New Jersey cities.  Mayor Cory Booker discussed the carjackings and stated. "It really created an atmosphere where people felt that any of us could be a victim, and that was really troubling."  The State Police, National Guard, FBI, and other agencies worked  together to address the carjacking problem in January. Prosecutor Robert Laurino announced the arrests of three groups of suspects that were linked to the carjackings.  Officials are considering the model of interagency cooperation that dealt with the carjackings for application to other crime issues.  Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy stated, "It's at the point where we're going to do less, but we're going to do it better, and we're going to have a bigger impact on what we're trying to do.  I really think that now that's what's normal, not only here in Newark, but across the country."   

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