Police in Norway are crediting the country’s DNA register for 868 breakthroughs in criminal investigations this year alone. The register played a critical role, officials say, in the arrest this week of a Norwegian truck driver now charged with raping two young girls 16 years ago.
“This breakthrough occurred on the background of a DNA match,” Lene Hammersland, a prosecutor for the Oslo Police District, told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday. “This case clearly shows how important it is that rules for who should be registered are followed. Without that, we wouldn’t have had this breakthrough.”
Convicted smuggler tied to rape case
In the case of the child rapes at Romsås in Oslo in June 2000, police collected DNA evidence as part of their investigation but there was no match in a DNA register that only contained 323 registered offenders at the time. After a five-month investigation, police dropped the case and categorized it as “offender unknown.”
Aftenposten reported that the DNA register, managed by the state police investigative unit Kripos, now has more than 85,000 people registered. Everyone convicted and sentenced to some form of custody or punishment now must be registered along with people charged in criminal cases and DNA “profiles” of unknown persons based on evidence gathered at crime sites.
The Norwegian truck driver now charged in the rape case was arrested on suspicions of smuggling by Swedish police on December 7, 2014, after he’d driven over a little-used border crossing in Finnskogen, southeastern Norway. The Swedish police found large quantities of liquor, wine and beer bought in Germany in his truck. He ultimately was sentenced to three months in prison, and since he could serve his time in a Norwegian prison, DNA samples were taken and registered when his case came up earlier this year. That’s when police in Oslo were informed that his DNA matched the DNA collected in connection with the rapes of the two girls, then aged six and seven, at Romsås.
Defense attorneys skeptical
The 41-year-old Norwegian man was then arrested and charged with the rapes in addition to being called in to serve his three-month jail term in the smuggling case. Police are continuing to investigate any connection he may have to other unsolved cases, especially those involving sexual assaults. Police have raided locations tied to the man and seized his digital devices.
Defense attorneys remain skeptical about the ongoing expansion of the DNA register, claiming it can lead to “more surveillance and registration than necessary.” Heidi Frydenberg, leader of the ID registration section at Kripos, remains adamant that the register is “an extremely important tool” in criminal investigations, especially those involving assault and rape.
“Registering criminals in the DNA register is an investment for the future, both for solving crimes committed earlier and in the future,” Frydenberg told Aftenposten.