Mobile fingerprint scanners...the latest crime-fighting gadget
13 August 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 next week 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 (PNC) to find out if the person is wanted by police or the courts.
Police in east Birmingham, plus traffic officers, used the handheld devices for several months as part of a trial.
And they proved so successful – leading to the swift arrest of many suspects – that the force has invested in 70 ‘MobileID’ units which will be rolled out next week (w/c August 20).
West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Darren Walsh is leading the project. He said: “The scanners cut bureaucracy and save countless police hours by keeping officers out on the streets rather than hauling suspects through potentially drawn-out custody procedures.
“Take an example of a warrant executed at an address. We may find several people inside – the scanners tell us immediately whether any of them have a criminal record and subsequently, after running details through PNC, if they’re wanted. 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.”
The devices will be shared amongst Neighbourhood Police priority action teams, Safer Travel Unit officers patrolling public transport networks, motorways policing, and the Guns & Gangs division.
During the pilot scheme, Birmingham officers used them to make swift arrests of burglary suspects and people who’d failed to turn-up for court appearances, whilst the gadgets allow traffic patrols to tell instantly if drivers pulled over for motoring offences are trying to evade prosecution by giving false details.
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.
The device is only used to check prints against the national database and doesn’t permanently store scanned images.
Chief Insp Walsh added: “All officers using the devices will complete a training package and receive tuition from officers who were part of the pilot project.
“Officers will use MobileID to compare information already on fingerprint databases and then deleted…no information is kept for use at a later date.”