Fingerprint scan gadgets identify criminals in seconds
10 May 2012
HI-TECH fingerprint scanning devices that allow officers to ID crime suspects on the streets in seconds are to be rolled out across West Midlands Police following a successful pilot project.
The pocket-sized gadgets are satellite linked to a national fingerprint database and instantly alert officers if the scanned prints belong to a convicted criminal.
Officers can then cross-reference against the Police National Computer to find out if the person is wanted by police or the courts.
Police in east Birmingham have been trialling the handheld device for several months – and they've proved hugely successful.
On one occasion, officers responding to complaints of a nuisance beggar discovered the man was wanted in connection with a murder in Spain after taking his prints digitally.
But crucially the scanners cut bureaucracy and save countless police hours by keeping officers out on the streets rather than hauling suspects through potentially protracted custody procedures.
West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Darren Walsh is leading the project. He said: "Let's take the example of a warrant executed at an address. We may find several people inside – the scanners tell us immediately whether any of them are wanted for criminal offences. It also means suspects can't try providing false details because the device confirms their identity.
"Traditionally, if officers had suspicions about an individual we'd need to take them to a police station, go through the custody process, and fingerprint them at the station which could take hours. The MobileID kits quickly confirm whether an arrest is necessary and frees-up officers to be on the streets protecting the public."
About 70 of the MobileID scanners have now been bought by West Midlands Police and will soon be rolled out to teams across the force area.
In east Birmingham, the scanners have enabled Proactive Teams to make swift arrests of suspected burglars plus numerous people who'd failed to turn-up for court appearances.
Local police Sergeant Gerry Carey, said: "We'd traced a man wanted for a string of burglaries to an address in Nechells. One morning, officers spotted a male fitting the suspect's description leaving the address.
"He gave details but was vague about his date of birth; it came back as 'no trace' on the national computer. The PCs weren't convinced and so scanned his prints which proved he was our man.
"Since the trial started we've had countless examples of where the device has been used to catch out lying criminals who've tried avoiding arrest by giving false details."
The device is only used to check prints against the national database and doesn't permanently store scanned images.
Chief Insp Walsh added: "It's used to compare information already on the database and then deleted…no information is kept for use at a later date."