Finnish and Estonian police were helped in the investigation of nearly 40 crimes when DNA information gathered in each country was recently made available to crime investigators in the other one.
An agreement on sharing information from the DNA records of the two countries took effect three weeks ago. Similar sharing of information is planned between Finland and Sweden as well.
Since the summer, Finland has been part of the Prüm Treaty, allowing eight European Union member states to share extensive data, including DNA information, fingerprints, and vehicle registration. Estonia and Finland are not in the Prüm Treaty.
In 38 cases, traces of DNA were found at crime scenes in Finland and Estonia, which were traced to individuals whose DNA was on file in the other country.
Kimmo Himberg, head of the crime laboratory at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) says that the number is not as high as had been expected.
Himberg notes that expectations were high. Finnish investigators have grown accustomed to getting positive identifications on the basis of DNA evidence in about 1,500 cases a year.
However, he is pleased with the result itself.
The exchange of information involves two databases in each of the countries. One file has DNA samples of people who have caught the eye of the police as suspects in crime, and the other contains unidentified traces of DNA found at crime scenes.
A comparison of samples taken at Finnish crime scenes with DNA registered in Estonia yielded 13 matches, and samples taken at crime scenes in Estonia yielded matches in the Finnish DNA register in 25 cases.
Comparisons were also made between crime scene DNA collected in both countries. Only one match was found.
There were also partial matches, in which the sample was not of sufficient quality for a reliable positive identification. These samples will require closer examination.
Most of the unidentified DNA traces found at Finnish crime scenes are linked with assaults and theft.
Himberg emphasises that a DNA match is just the beginning for the actual investigation of the crime itself.
A DNA match does not necessarily mean that the crime in question is resolved, as the biological traces can be from other people who had been in the same location. However, getting a name for an unidentified sample is generally helpful in the investigation.
(Helsingin Sanomat, January 3, 2008)
Sharing DNA information with Estonia helps Finnish crime investigators