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Friday, August 16, 2019

Fwd: N.Y. Today: Why the N.Y.P.D.’s DNA Database Has Some People Worried




What you need to know for Friday and the weekend.
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The New York Times
Friday, August 16, 2019

New York Today

Why the N.Y.P.D.'s DNA Database Has Some People Worried

By Aaron Randle

It's Friday.

Weather: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. Carry an umbrella; there's a chance of showers.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Labor Day (Sept. 2).

Maurice Sylla, who was asked to provide DNA to the police.Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

The New York Police Department is ramping up the collection and storage of people's DNA, sometimes without their knowledge or consent.

There are 82,473 genetic profiles in the city's database, known as the Local DNA Index System — an increase of nearly 29 percent in the past two years, according to the Legal Aid Society.

The police say the database is effective in identifying criminals and solving crimes, but some New Yorkers are concerned that it violates privacy rights, my colleagues Jan Ransom and Ashley Southall reported.

The genetic database is just one of many in the country that operate with little if any oversight.

The big concerns: privacy and trust

More than 31,000 of the profiles were derived from children and adults who were suspected, but not convicted, of crimes, the Legal Aid Society said.

"It's essentially saying, 'Give us your entire genome, even though we don't have any reason to believe you have committed a crime,'" said Erin E. Murphy, a New York University law professor who has written about DNA databases and DNA profiling.

Eric Bellamy told my colleagues that he was shocked the police came to his home in 2016 — unannounced and without a warrant — and asked for his DNA in order to clear him of a crime.

Maurice Sylla said detectives who were seeking his DNA asked his niece intimidating questions about the family's immigration status. They had "no reason to invade my privacy," he said.

The Legal Aid Society said these tactics could erode good will between neighborhoods and a community's police officers.

But the police are pushing back

The police are countering the criticisms by highlighting closed cases.

"We are not indiscriminately collecting DNA," said Dermot F. Shea, the department's chief of detectives.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office said DNA had helped solve 270 cases, including sexual assaults and homicides. The role of the database became a flash point in the trial of Chanel Lewis, the Brooklyn man convicted in April of murdering Karina Vetrano, a jogger in Queens.

Another man, Avery Bovell, was convicted in 2014 of raping a woman after his DNA was recovered from an object he touched during a separate robbery.

"Without having that resource, we would never have been able to identify one of the attackers in that case," said Rachel Singer, the chief of the forensic science unit in the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

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[Want more news from New York and around the region? Check out our full coverage.]

The Mini Crossword: Here is today's puzzle.

What we're reading

New York City is changing how students are accepted into public high schools. [Chalkbeat]

The gym chain Equinox announced it was donating $1 million to five charities after one of its investors hosted a fund-raiser for President Trump. [Gothamist]

Some food banks in New York State are bursting at the seams because of the trade war between the United States and China. [Wall Street Journal]

What we're watching: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson discusses housing, the homeless and mass transit — and his political future — on "The New York Times Close Up With Sam Roberts." The show airs tonight at 8, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. [CUNY TV]

Coming up this weekend

Friday:

Liz Kerin discusses her first novel, "The Phantom Forest," in the Rare Book Room at the Strand in Manhattan. Admission includes a $15 gift card to the Strand. 7 p.m. [$15]

Comic Culture Prime: The Queer Pages is a program for adults that includes panels, guest artists and workshop demonstrations on comics at the Bronx Museum. 7 p.m. [Free]

Saturday:

Dye a silk scarf with gathered plant matter at North Brooklyn Farms. 3 p.m. [$45]

Join astronomers from Pioneer Works for stargazing and solar-gazing on Governors Island. 5 p.m. [Free]

Field Mouse and Long Neck join the indie-rock band Summer Cannibals at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. 6 p.m. [$12]

Sunday:

The Free Black Women's Library hosts a day of wordplay and trivia about black women's literature, history and art on Governors Island. Noon-5 p.m. [Free]

The Despers USA Steel Orchestra brings steel pan music to the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park. 2 p.m. [Free]

"Celia," a coming-of-age psychological horror film by the Australian director Ann Turner, screens at the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan. 6:30 p.m. [$12]

— Vivian Ewing

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times's culture pages.

And finally: Dine with your dog

Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

The Times's Melissa Guerrero reports:

On the heels of New York City's Restaurant Week comes another summer food event — and this time, it's not just for humans.

During N.Y.C. Dog Restaurant Week, participating restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn will offer diners dog-friendly menus and deals like 15 percent off the bill, complimentary tennis balls (for the pups) and complimentary frosรฉ (for the humans).

The week, which runs Sunday through Aug. 25, is similar to events that satisfied growling stomachs in Chicago, Nashville and Austin, Tex.

Petminded, the pet-travel planning website that organized the week in New York, said it wanted to highlight dog-friendly businesses as part of its larger mission to make traveling with pets easier for animals and their owners.

"Dogs need a vacation, too," said Sonali Nigam, the chief executive of Petminded and one of its founders.

But Ms. Nigam acknowledged that "not everyone is fond of eating with a dog around."

A diner interviewed by The Times in 2015 wondered, "Where does it end?" As she waited for pancakes at Cafรฉ Luluc in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, she added: "Can I bring my cow? My goat?"

As such, the city's Department of Health has "dining with dogs" rules.

In the five boroughs, only service dogs are allowed inside establishments. So, all Dog Restaurant Week reservations will be patio only.

It's Friday — treat yourself, and your furry friend.

Metropolitan Diary: Moonwalk

Dear Diary:

On July 20, 1969, I was driving a yellow cab. I was on the evening shift and I had live coverage of the moon mission on the radio.

At 10:30, I was driving a fare up Sixth Avenue. I knew Neil Armstrong was about to walk on the moon, and I didn't want to miss it.

We were near 50th Street. A large TV screen showing NBC's live coverage had been set up in front of the Time-Life Building. I pulled over, double-parked and shut off the meter.

My passenger looked perplexed.

"We have a chance to catch history and I am not going to miss it," I said. "Do you want to join me?"

He stared at me for a beat.

"The ride is on me," I said.

That was enough. We got out and walked over to the Time-Life Building. Nearly an hour passed while we stood there, two strangers watching a man walk on the moon.

— John G. Singer

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