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Denver DNA Burglary Project




Denver has become a tough place for burglars to make a living, thanks to the outstanding work of the Denver Police Department and the Denver DA’s Office. In 2005, we launched the Burglary DNA Project with a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

The idea behind the Burglary DNA Project was to identify biological evidence at burglary crime scenes and develop DNA profiles that would help catch and later convict these criminals.

Why burglars?

They are known to be prolific criminals who return to a life of crime even after serving a prison term. Research shows habitual burglars commit on average more than 240 burglaries a year. They also have the potential to escalate their offenses to sexual assault and other violent crimes. Taking one burglar off the street can prevent hundreds of crimes a year!

The grant-funded project has now come to a close but the Denver District Attorney and the Denver Police Department are committed to continuing the expanded use of DNA in solving and prosecuting property crimes.


The Denver Police Department responds to more than 7,500 burglary cases every year! Over the last several years, prior to the Burglary DNA Project, property crimes had increased by about 5% annually.

These cases have a negative impact on our quality of life and use a lot of valuable law enforcement resources. The National Institute of Justice helped fund Denver’s pilot program, the DNA Burglary Project, in November of 2005. Through this grant, 510 burglary cases with viable biological material were identified during the grant period, resulting in 182 criminal cases being filed.

The biological material came from a variety of sources left behind at the scene such as blood, cigarettes butts or hair. The material was collected at the scene by police officers who were specially trained. It was then submitted to the Denver Police Department’s Crime Laboratory for DNA analysis. The DNA profile was then uploaded to the national DNA database called CODIS.

The results have been astounding:

  • More than 95 prolific burglars in the Denver area were caught and convicted
  • The burglary rate in Denver dropped 26%
  • The use of DNA evidence in burglary cases results in average 14-year prison term (compared to an average 1.4-year jail sentence for cases without DNA)
  • The project showed that in property crimes, the presence of DNA can be paramount to successful prosecution. In cases that include DNA evidence, the prosecution filing rate is approximately 42%, which is more than eight times the rate of prosecution in cases without DNA evidence.
  • Annual savings to citizens in Denver are estimated at more then $29 million to date.
  • For more details and statistics on the project see: Effectiveness and Cost Efficiency of DNA Evidence in Volume Crime, Denver Colorado Site Summary DNABurgrCostEfficiencyReserch1.PDF
  • The DNA Field Experiment: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the Use of DNA in the Investigation of High-Volume Crimes, Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, Roman, Reid, Reid, Chalfin, Adams, Knight, April 2008.
    NIJ DNA Burglary Paper.PDF
  • Burglars Go Bust: The DNA Field Experiment, TechBeat Magazine, Summer 2008. BurglarsGoBust.PDF
  • DNA Solves Property Crimes (But Are We Ready for That?), Nancy Ritter NIJ Journal No. 261, October 2008 dna property crimes.PDF
  • Using DNA To Solve High-Volume Property Crimes In Denver: Saving Money, Lowering Crime Rates and Making Denver Safer, Ashikhmin, Berdine LaBerge, Morrissey and Weber, The PROSECUTOR, Volume 42 / Number 3, July / August / September 2008, NDAA. Denver Burg Project NDAA.pdf

There are things you can do to reduce your risk of being burglarized. Find out more by clicking here: Burglary Pamphlet.pdf

For more information on using DNA to solve property crimes see:

  1. Sneak Thieves and Cat Burglars Beware-DNA in property crimes.PDF
  2. Solving Property Crimes with DNA.PDF
  3. Dna-becomes routine-crim.pdf
  4. property-crimes-.pdf

For information and training on collecting DNA in property crimes see:
Collecting DNA Evidence at Property Crime Scenes web site (an interactive training program)