In Truro, Massachusetts, at the end of 2004, police politely asked all male residents to provide a DNA sample to match with DNA material found at the scene of an unsolved murder. Residents were approached in a non-threatening manner and asked to help solve the crime. This tactic of rounding up all the usual suspects and then some is still rare in the United States for historical, legal, and logistical reasons, but it is becoming more common. The Truro case illustrates expanding trends in surveillance and social control.
There is increased reliance on “soft” means for collecting personal information. In criminal justice contexts these means involve some or all of the following: persuasion to gain voluntary compliance, universality or at least increased inclusiveness, and emphasis on the needs of the community relative to the rights of the individual.
As with other new forms of surveillance and detection, the process of gathering the DNA information is quick and painless, involving a mouth swab, and is generally not felt to be invasive. This makes such requests seem harmless relative to the experience of having blood drawn, having an observer watch while a urine drug sample is produced, or being patted down or u...
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