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New Biometric ID system improving law enforcement officers’ abilities to connect suspects to crime scenes

By Staff | Mar 9, 2010

The task of linking possible suspects to a crime scene has gotten easier for law enforcement thanks to improved fingerprint matching technology.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement implemented the new Biometric ID System statewide in June, according to a prepared statement. The system is “a key component of FALCON, a multi-faceted criminal history integration project.” The FDLE’s older, Automated Fingerprint Identification System was installed in 1996.
“People leave palm prints at crime scenes, not just fingerprints,” said Kristen Chernosky, a spokeswoman for the FDLE. “One of the biggest things about this new system that wasn’t in place before is the ability to search palm prints.
“It’s just the added ability for us to possibly make a match, where before we could only rely on the fingerprint,” she said.
With 3,000 people arrested daily in Florida, the system compares incoming fingerprints and palm prints against unidentified latent prints left at crime scenes. When a match is made, FDLE notifies the law enforcement agency investigating the crime and provides information on the matching person.
From June through December, the first six months under the new system, the number of “hits” on prints left at crime scenes tripled compared to the same period in 2008. The hits refer to incoming arrest prints that matched unsolved crime scene prints, according to the FDLE statement.
During the same six months, the number of hits “more than doubled when FDLE scientists compared new crime scene prints against the 4.8 million subject fingerprints on file.” There have been more than 5,000 hits on palm prints, and the system currently has more than a half million palm prints.
The Biometric ID System also has the capability to store larger areas of the finger and hand, and it has a larger storage capacity, which allows the FDLE to retain mug shots and images of offender’s scars, marks and tattoos.
“It’s just another component of the system that we have the ability to store that information as well,” Chernosky said. “So everything can be in one central database.”
The system uses more sophisticated and sensitive matching formulas, which increases the possibility of a match. It has the ability to match prints, even if the print quality is not optimal, such as if it is a partial or smudged print.
“Before it (the print) might not be of any use, but now with the new technology, we have a better chance of making a hit,” Chernosky said. “It uses better formulas to make a match.”
All 67 counties in Florida have use of the system since its implementation last year. According to Chernosky, the FDLE will notify agencies of a match within two weeks of receiving the print. It takes the FDLE about 39 days to compare a new crime scene print against the prints contained in the system.
“Every law enforcement agency in our state benefits from the arsenal of high-tech tools this system delivers,” Commissioner Gerald Bailey wrote in the statement. “This is an investment in public safety technology that translates to more crimes solved, offenders off the streets, and improved safety statewide.”