Smoke Screen

The DNA Burglary Project is on the case.

On September 1, the jury came back with a not-guilty verdict for Dina on the Anema burglary and a guilty verdict for the Jacobsen case. At sentencing, the prosecution will argue that she should be deemed a habitual criminal because she has more than three felony convictions, which would give her 48 years, four times the maximum burglary sentence and more time than her husband got for pleading guilty to three burglaries. The Pawnbrokers Act violation is still pending.

Carlos Samour, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Dina Weller's case, says that since the couple was taken into custody, the West Washington Park neighborhood has seen a huge decrease in burglaries. "That's what we find in research with a lot of these burglars," he explains. "They do a lot of burglaries, so if you can take one burglar off the street, you can prevent a lot of burglaries."

The Wellers' convictions are just the beginning, too. Since the burglary project's November start, 27 cases have been filed using DNA, new equipment has been purchased, a full-time DNA analyst has been hired and officers have been trained. Over eighteen months, the goal is to collect DNA evidence from 500 burglaries, which will be analyzed to study the efficiency and effectiveness of using DNA to solve property crimes. Stanford and Samour have been leaders in the training of all officers to identify and gather DNA evidence from burglary scenes and in instructing police on how to work with the crime lab.

"I have stood in the middle of a crime scene with a lot of biological evidence in a burglary, and I have been on the phone with the scientist saying, 'This is what I'm looking at. This is what we have. What do you think would be the best for us to test?'" Stanford says. "We're not just going in there and bringing in a truckload and saying, 'Test everything.' That's not good police work."

Every DNA profile found at a crime scene is uploaded into CODIS -- the FBI Laboratory's Combined DNA Index System -- which could help solve future crimes or link crimes together. Most states upload the profiles of all convicted felons into CODIS, while some go as far as entering the profiles of arrestees. CODIS then not only constantly searches the DNA profiles from crime scenes against those of convicted felons, but also finds matches among the crime scenes, allowing law enforcement to make connections between cases.

According to the National Institute of Justice, when police departments analyze DNA from a burglary, they find evidence that often solves other cases. A study in Florida, for example, found that 52 percent of individuals with CODIS profiles who had been convicted of murder or sexual assault had prior convictions for burglary. "A lot of people tend to think of burglars as just committing burglaries, and that's not the case," says Samour. "This isn't just a program to prevent property crime. This is a program also to decrease and prevent violent crime."

Stanford says the project is just like any other development in the history of police work: "When fingerprints first started, somebody had to invest in the ink and fingerprint cards because they found that was another tool to help them identify suspects. We are probably just at another era where we're changing. We're going to have to invest. We have an obligation to the citizens of Denver and to victims."

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