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Called familial searching, the technique attracted support after the murder of Karina Vetrano in Queens, a case that stymied investigators for months. Though a recent break in the case that led to the arrest of a suspect did not involve familial searching, the push for New York to join at least nine other states in authorizing the method has continued.

Familial searching allows investigators to look through databases with wider parameters to identify people who are most likely close relatives of the person who may have committed a crime. After a relative is found, investigators work backward to find the suspect. Many officials say familial searching is an important tool for solving particularly stubborn cases. It has led to arrests in cases like the so-called Grim Sleeper in Los Angeles. Ms. Vetrano’s parents, too, have advocated its use.

But the method has raised ethical questions. Many see it as an invasion of privacy that draws an innocent group of people — and their DNA — into criminal inquiries based on their blood relation to a suspect or someone convicted of a crime. And there was at least one case where familial searching was used and an innocent man was told he was a murder suspect, before he was eventually cleared.

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iMAGE: By Zephyris at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5971161

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