Centre of Applied Research Technology

Decision support for using mobile rapid DNA analysis at the crime scene


Mobile Rapid DNA technology is close to being incorporated into crime scene investigations, with the potential to identify a perpetrator within hours. However, the use of these techniques entails the risk of losing the sample and potential evidence, because the device not only consumes the inserted sample, it is also is less sensitive than traditional technologies used in forensic laboratories. Scene of Crime Officers (SoCOs) therefore will face a ‘time/success rate trade-off’ issue when making a decision to apply this technology.

In this study we designed and experimentally tested a Decision Support System (DSS) for the use of Rapid DNA technologies based on Rational Decision Theory (RDT). In a vignette study, where SoCOs had to decide on the use of a Rapid DNA analysis device, participating SoCOs were assigned to either the control group (making decisions under standard conditions), the Success Rate (SR) group (making decisions with additional information on DNA success rates of traces), or the DSS group (making decisions supported by introduction to RDT, including information on DNA success rates of traces).

This study provides positive evidence that a systematic approach for decision-making on using Rapid DNA analysis assists SoCOs in the decision to use the rapid device. The results demonstrated that participants using a DSS made different and more transparent decisions on the use of Rapid DNA analysis when different case characteristics were explicitly considered. In the DSS group the decision to apply Rapid DNA analysis was influenced by the factors “time pressure” and “trace characteristics” like DNA success rates. In the SR group, the decisions depended solely on the trace characteristics and in the control group the decisions did not show any systematic differences on crime type or trace characteristic.

Guiding complex decisions on the use of Rapid DNA analyses with a DSS could be an important step towards the use of these devices at the crime scene.

Reference Mapes, A. A., Stoel, R. D., de Poot, C. J., Vergeer, P., & Huyck, M. (2019). Decision support for using mobile rapid DNA analysis at the crime scene. Science & Justice, 59(1), 29-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scijus.2018.05.003
1 January 2019

Publication date

Jan 2019


A.A. Mapes
R.D. Stoel
P. Vergeer
M. Huyck

Research database