New tech helps Baltimore PD in crime control efforts

Posted on Sep 11, 2015
New technology is one of the greatest tools for law enforcement officers in terms of realizing additional advantages for crime control efforts. Technology will never replace officer judgment or the value of years or decades on a beat, but it can extend the reach, grasp, senses and information processing power of a department in ways that simply weren't possible in the past. One such emerging technology, a fingerprint identification process that provides near-instantaneous results, was recently adopted by police officers in Baltimore.

A vampire that helps police
The technology is officially called Vampire, according to CBS Baltimore, with the name stemming from the device's targeting function. A pair of red dots emanate from the device to help users center it and appear to many, including system creators Booz Allen Hamilton, to resemble the bite of a vampire. The two dots focus the Vampire's screen, allowing the spectrum of light it uses to capture and analyze fingerprints found at crime scenes and other relevant locations.

"New technology is one of the greatest tools for law enforcement officers in terms of realizing additional advantages for crime control efforts."

Far from the traditional method of dusting for fingerprints, this portable technology allows for real-time analysis. A forensic process that once took days to complete now takes just seconds. Technicians using the Vampire units simply capture an image of the prints from the object or surface where they're found. The prints are then checked against existing police databases. Steven O'Dell, Baltimore's city crime lab director, told CBS Baltimore the device will likely have a direct impact on the number of charges filed in property crime cases, as well as other areas. The city had approximately 6,700 reported burglaries in 2014, but fewer than 1,000 arrests. O'Dell said clearance rates for such crimes could improve as much as 10 percent in the first calendar year of Vampire use, with a few other positive changes made by the department also helping boost those efforts.

A modest investment for portable tools
The city government expects to acquire five of the devices for a budget outlay of $30,000. While not a small amount, that investment could easily pay off if clearance rates improve as expected. The money comes from a federal grant, according to The Baltimore Sun, which made the selection of the system easier to approve.The portability of the Vampire devices is a major advantage in terms of functionality and real-time crime fighting - if the units were stationary and could only operate inside of station houses, the improvements would be muted to a significant extent.

Clearing up a common issue in investigations
One notable benefit provided by Vampire is the ability to quickly recognize the fingerprints of a homeowner and other residents, reducing the workloads of forensic scientists and minimizing the time spent following up on false leads. Taken as a whole, it's no surprise many Baltimore officers expect Vampire units to provide significant advantages.

"The faster you get your prints inspected, the more likely you are to solve a crime," O'Dell told The Baltimore Sun. "We're excited about it."

Keeping up with technology
Law enforcement organizations need to stay current when it comes to technology. If they don't, they could miss out on major advancements that push the balance of power and information toward officers. NC4 Street Smart provides a secure, real-time intelligence sharing solution that improves communication and removes silos around important operational data. Identifying patterns, crimes and other incidents quickly and effectively is a major advantage. Providing constantly available and relevant information makes officers more effective at their jobs and serves as a force multiplier.

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