Removing the Word ‘Serial’ From Crime

Going a step beyond means a new sense of safety for Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania.

In the diverse county of Bensalem Township, Public Safety Director Fred Harran is a man on a mission: to catch offenders before they have a chance to become repeat offenders. When he first joined the force, this would have seemed like an impossible task but, thanks to advancements made in DNA analysis technology, he is now making it a reality.

 

When DNA analysis was first introduced to the Bensalem police department, it took 18 months to process a sample. By 2010, this had been shortened to 30 days. A remarkable improvement but, for families waiting for justice or loved ones looking for closure, Director Harran thought it was still too long. So, in 2017, he convinced the department to invest in an Applied Biosystems RapidHIT ID DNA analysis system. Now his officers, who are all trained to use the microwave-sized system, can get results in just 90 minutes.

For Director Harran, this means that he has been able to live up to his promise of keeping his community safe. Since the introduction of rapid DNA in 2017, Bensalem has seen a 42% reduction in burglary, a 51% reduction in forcible sexual assault, and a 53% reduction in robbery.

 

When asked by other police departments why they should use rapid DNA, Director Harran said he takes them back to why they started this job in the first place, and what they told the interview board all those years ago – I want to make a difference. I want to help people. I want to take bad criminals off the street. “This makes why you took the job, and what people truly want from us… a reality.”

“It’s cliché but it’s also very truthful because really, that’s why you take this job… and this product helps whatever you said to that oral board 30 years ago, it helps that come true now.” – Director Harran

But rapid DNA hasn’t just helped prevent future victims, it has also helped free innocent people and given families much-needed closure. In the last five years, 16 people in Bensalem have been exonerated thanks to DNA analysis. Director Harran also recalls a horrifying case in 2017 where a local man had lured and murdered four young men in the community. The police had just acquired the RapidHIT ID system and were able to use it to identify the victims to give their families the closure they so sorely needed. “What kind of price tag can you put on that?”, he asks. “There is no price.”

Those in his community will no doubt agree. Thanks to Director Harran going a step beyond in his duty to protect and serve, it’s safe to say that Bensalem sleeps a lot easier at night.


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