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Stockton, CA police see results from technological progress

Fingerprinting suspects has been a long-standing tradition in much of the U.S., with the tried-and-true method of using ink and paper very common in a variety of locales. However, a new method that relies on digital reading, storage and transmission has become a benefit to the Stockton, California police department. The law enforcement agency has used fingerprint scanners in a growing number of applications since 2010 and is moving away from the physical recording of fingerprints with a handheld device.

Fingerprinting is one area where technology is improving the operational capabilities of police

Better access to information
Local newspaper The Stockton Record reported that the department has been testing the handheld scanners and putting them to use in the field thanks to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate. Stockton is one of 62 different sheriff and police departments testing the technology across the country. One of the biggest advantages of the tool is the information-sharing capabilities it provides. By having a device that instantaneously and digitally records fingerprints, that information can be cross-checked against various databases and also transmitted to other organizations as needed or required. This stands in stark contrast to the fingerprinting methods in place at many police precincts, where digitization is a separate and sometimes time-consuming process.

The device used by Stockton police also makes the collection of latent fingerprints a simpler task, meaning more time saved by officers and a safe, stable, digitized record.

"With the traditional method, you would have to dust the print, lift it with lifting tape, take it back to the office and process the image on a digital flatbed scanner," Erin Mettler, the Stockton Police Department fiscal planning and research planner, told The Stockton Record. "From that capture, the latent print examiner then looks at the ridge detail and dissects the fingerprint trying to find minutiae points, and then runs the fingerprint through the database to try to find potential matches."

An area of focus
While still using traditional methods in many instances, digital fingerprinting is beginning to open up to more technological advancements. Industry publication Police One pointed out that, as far back as 2004, improvements to fingerprint lifting, recognition and other forensic concerns were a focus of technology developers and police departments alike. While fingerprinting is just one of many concerns that come up when crime control is discussed, they play an important role in identifying many types of criminals, including repeat, pattern offenders who cause a significant amount of trouble for many jurisdictions.


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