set crime investigations back ['set back'?]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Nullass, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. Nullass Member

    Help me please to understand the meaning of the following phrase.

    “They just set crime investigations back twenty years”.

    Context - Law & Order.
    Benson is at home, on the phone with Stabler, looking at the police car parked below her apartment. She complains she does not need a baby sitter. Meanwhile, in the squad room, Munch says they found Brady took his silver Mercedes to an auto body shop to repair a front bumper. But Stabler reminds them that Benson’s DNA is still on the knife. Cragen and Warner enter, Cragen saying that he talked to Brady’s PI in the ER, and was told Brady to follow Benson into a diner and bag her utensils after she left. But Warner says the sample off the knife was her blood, not from saliva. When Stabler asks her if she just stopped by to throw another monkey wrench into the case, she retorts that she hasn’t stopped running tests since this went down. She found a small anomaly. In normal DNA, 80% of the markers are methylated, but in Benson’s sample on the knife, none are. When Warner said she had to get information from Israel to find the answer, Munch asks, “Did my people help you?” She said maybe, but they just set crime investigations back about 20 years. Last summer, the scientists there found a way to fabricate DNA.

    Does it mean that in Israel an investigation process is more regressive than in USA, I mean "retarded"?
  2. Ceremoniar Senior Member

    American English
    It means that discovery of a way to falsify DNA would undo all of the advances that DNA identification has made for criminal investigators over the past two decades.
  3. Nullass Member

    Thank you very much!:)
  4. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    To "set back <something/some field of endeavor> for <a long period of time>" is a set phrase meaning (generalizing what Ceremoniar said) to "undo the advances made during that time".
  5. Nullass Member

    Thank you for such a lucid & simple explanation.

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