Bonaparte Identifies Criminals and Victims on an International Scale

Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen, working with SMART Research BV, have developed a software program that can identify people by using their relatives’ DNA.  Earlier this month, Interpol announced that it will be implementing the program, which is called Bonaparte, to improve the ability of member countries to identify missing persons and victims of disasters. “Napoleon made sure everyone was given a surname, and with our Bonaparte program nameless victims get their name back.

The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), which is working with Interpol to assist with the program’s implementation, has successfully used Bonaparte to identify the victims of the Tripoli airplane crash in 2010 and to identify the criminal behind the 1999 murder of Marianne Vaatstra, a young Dutch woman.  The NFI also plans to use Bonaparte to identify the unnamed victims of the 1953 flood in the southwest region of the Netherlands.

With the addition of Bonaparte, Interpol will be able to swiftly identify criminals, victims, and their family members.  In particular, Bonaparte is expected to increase Interpol’s ability to effectively respond to missing persons and transnational crimes.

But Bonaparte is not limited to human identification.  Bonaparte is a software program that applies logical techniques and advanced statistical methods to solve problems. Thus, it can be used in a variety of circumstances.  For example, it can advise complementary wine pairings for a meal or estimate the number of newspapers that should be printed.  Interpol has plans to use Bonaparte to help police fight wildlife crime in Africa by using DNA and isotope analysis to identify poaching hotspots.

The Chief Executive Officer of the NFI, Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi, stated that the Bonaparte program and the cooperative efforts of Interpol and the NFI is “an example of the growing internationalization of the forensic domain.”  With advances in science and technology and the collaborative work of various national and international organizations, the globalization of criminal justice is progressing. Interpol’s implementation of Bonaparte represents a significant step towards the international community’s ability to combat crimes, recover from disasters, and provide victims and their families peace. As more technology is developed and adapted to aid the criminal justice system, hopefully, more countries will get involved, sharing techniques, methodologies, and information and improving crime detection and prevention worldwide.


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