DNA Testing is Okay for Pets but Not for Resident Screening?
A recent multifamily industry discussion during holiday downtime about using DNA to identify pets that soil apartment complexes raises a compelling question: What’s more important: fingering renters who don’t clean up after their pets or identifying applicants who have serious violent criminal histories?
Crime in the apartment community and doggy doo on the grounds share much in common – both are unsavory to residents and reduce quality of life. But the similarities end there.
While every dog is said to have its day, Tennessee-based BioPet takes DNA testing to a new level with technology dubbed PooPrints, which can identify pets making unsightly messes on apartment property. The idea is that all pet owners pay a small fee to have the dog’s DNA cataloged by having CSI-style technician swab the cud of the animal. Then, when some unidentified dog doo doo is discovered on the apartment community campus, another CSI technician swoops in to perform a DNA test to determine the likely perpetrator. Once the offending dog and owner are identified, presumably they are hauled to the leasing office to face the fines for breaching community doggie etiquette, not to mention suffering through the angst and scorn from the leasing and maintenance staffs.
DNA testing is nothing new and has advanced dramatically since its development in 1984. Upon its introduction, the technology immediately transformed law enforcement by more accurately identifying heinous criminals and, in recent years, has freed those individuals who were wrongly imprisoned. Fast forward a few decades and now were using one of science’s greatest discoveries to guilt people into cleaning up after their dogs? Brilliant!
Meanwhile, identifying criminal offenders during the apartment rental application process isn’t so cut and dried. Traditional background checks require sifting through credit checks, criminal records, eviction histories and the like. While there is resident screening software that helps simplify the process, each landlord often has its own criteria to evaluate whether an applicant will be accepted or rejected, and use of only a credit report or criminal background check may not provide all the answers. You see, missing a criminal record during your standard screening process is as simple as misspelling a last name or fat fingering the applicant’s date of birth. Criminal courts, and the screening companies who rely on their data, have only name and date of birth to match criminal records. Names are so common, that without the dates of birth criminal records would be near impossible to match.
Yet it seems that every day some State Representative introduces a new bill to further limit this information in order to protect the privacy of his/her constituents. Using biometric systems like fingerprinting, retinal scans or – yes – DNA testing would dramatically increase the accuracy of criminal searches. But forget biometrics, just don’t take away what we have today!
So what is wrong with a society that can DNA test doggy droppings but is unwilling to do the same to perform a better background check (U.S. Constitution aside, of course)?
My guess is that somebody could knock out a new screening DNA testing feature relatively quickly and inexpensively. Imagine that, just like with Fido or Fluffy, the applicant would sign on the dotted line and get tested. “Okay, sir, all we need is your driver’s license, social security number, major credit card, and a cotton swab!”
But could you imagine the furor and outrage that would be focused on the apartment industry for the lack of respect of individual privacy? Would this mean that resident applicants are assumed criminals unless proven otherwise by DNA or biometrics? Of course, could we really pay our leasing consultants enough money to get them to swab the inside of each applicant’s cheek?
Until that time comes, DNA testing will have to be reserved for America’s Most Wanted … and those pooper scooper party poopers. As always, watch your step!
What are your thoughts on this?