New Agreement with the US Accelerates the Tracing of Criminals

Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten has signed the PCSC agreement with the United States today on behalf of the Netherlands. For this occasion Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute of the Department of Homeland Security visited his ministry. The agreement makes it possible to trace criminals more quickly by exchanging data on DNA profiles and fingerprints of suspects. According to Minister Opstelten the agreement marks an important step forward in criminal investigation.

The Agreement on Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PCSC) provides that the Netherlands and the United States may, in individual cases, request information about DNA profiles and fingerprints taken from suspects. DNA profiles and fingerprints found at the scene of a crime may also be compared in cases where no suspects are, as yet, under consideration. To this end the countries will have access, via a national point of contact, to each other’s databases that contain linking data on fingerprints and DNA profiles. During this procedure the DNA profiles and fingerprints will be exclusively linked to a registration number (the reference) and cannot be reduced to the identity of the person concerned.

As soon as a ‘match’ is found, the country concerned must request the associated personal data via a request for mutual legal assistance.

At present, the countries are already sending each other requests for matching DNA profiles and fingerprints related to crimes, but this matching is done manually, and completion often takes a long time. The advantage of the new agreement is that the Netherlands and the US will now have access to each others databases to compare DNA profiles and fingerprints related to a crime. If a match is found, this may contribute to a (quicker) procedure in solving a serious crime. This may, for instance, involve situations where a crime has been committed in the Netherlands and there are indications that the unknown suspect is also active, or has been active, in the United States. If the DNA profile or the fingerprint of the suspect concerned is also contained in the US database, this produces a match, consequently revealing the identity of the suspect. Criminal proceedings may then be instituted against the suspect.

The contracting countries will determine themselves which fingerprints and DNA profiles will be included in the Dutch database. In the Netherlands this concerns data related to offences punishable by a prison sentence of four years or more. The database search, based on the hit/no hit system, is only allowed in individual cases, and may only be performed by authorised officers.

The Agreement will now be submitted to the Houses of Parliament for approval.

Several countries within the European Union are already using this system, that was set up as part of the implementation of the Prüm Convention, with good results. For the Netherlands, this system has already produced many DNA hits with the EU member states that are party to the Agreement, and has consequently contributed to the process of solving a number of serious crimes.