Police in the Taiwanese city of Taipei were accused of wasting taxpayers’ money on solving stupid cases after local media revealed that they recently conducted DNA tests worth hundreds of dollars to find out who drank a student’s $2 yoghurt bottle.
Sharing a fridge with roommates in college usually means accepting that, from time to time, some of your treats will mysteriously disappear. It’s like a tradition, but for one Taiwanese woman sharing a house with five other women studying at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, it was a serious crime that had to be solved at any cost.
Last month, the unnamed woman came home to find one of her yoghurt bottles empty in the garbage bin.
None of her housemates had asked her permission to drink the yoghurt, so she fished the empty bottle from the trash, convened an emergency house meeting and asked the other five women which one of them had stolen her yoghurt.
When none of them owned up to the crime, the infuriated woman took the empty yoghurt bottle to the police and demanded that they carry out an official investigation and bring the criminal to justice.
In most other places around the world, police officers would have almost certainly told the woman that this was not a matter for the police, and maybe even scolded her for wasting their time.
But police in Taipei are apparently committed to solving any crime, no matter how innocent. They accepted the case and started pouring serious financial resources into the investigation.
After hearing the woman’s story, the police had her five roommates brought in for questioning. They all denied drinking her yoghurt, and since they couldn’t find any fingerprints on the bottle, because of the condensation, they decided to conduct forensic DNA tests on the five suspects as well as the woman who had made the allegations in order to find out which one of them was lying.
According to TVBS News, Taipei police spent a total of NT$18,000 ($585) on forensic investigation kits, reagents and centrifuges for 6 DNA tests in order to find the “thief” of a $2 yoghurt bottle. It’s unclear if they actually managed to find the culprit, but one thing police definitely managed to do was attract unwanted attention to themselves and the way they use public resources.
The story went viral and people reacted angrily online, accusing police of wasting their budget on stupid cases instead of solving real crimes. Even sources in the police, who preferred to remain anonymous, compared this case with “using a cannon to shoot birds – it is not really in line with the principle of proportionality”.
Some people commented that it would have been cheaper for police to simply by the woman a bottle of yoghurt when she first came in, or that it would have been simpler for her to just move out of the house if she couldn’t handle the loss of a yoghurt bottle.