Police trial mobile fingerprinting

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Police trial mobile fingerprinting

Antony Savvas

The police have launched roadside mobile fingerprinting trials as part of the national Lantern project.

The technology is also set to be used by officers to help fight crime in all areas, not just on the roads.

Ten forces around the UK will be taking part in the trial, which relies on personal digital assistants being linked to national fingerprint databases via GPRS mobile networks.

The project is being managed by the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), and aims to speed the time it takes for officers to confirm the identities of drivers at the roadside.

Annual savings of more than £2.2m through time saved in pursuing false identities have been forecast.

Currently, if an officer cannot be sure of a driver’s identity, they may be taken to a police station to await confirmation.

Drivers will be asked to voluntarily place the index finger of each hand on a PDA scanning device. The new system should provide the officer with a possible fingerprint match within five minutes.

At present, police say around 60% of drivers stopped do not give their true identity.

Chris Wheeler, head of fingerprint identification at PITO, said, “This pilot will help us explore the accuracy and capacity issues around the device in a live scenario as part of work towards a national solution.”

The pilot device was developed in conjunction with Northamptonshire Police and PITO supplier Northrop Grumman.

The ten police forces taking part in the pilots are Bedfordshire Police, British Transport Police, Essex Police, Hertfordshire Constabulary, Lancashire Constabulary, Metropolitan Police Service, North Wales Police, Northamptonshire Police, West Midlands Police and West Yorkshire Police.

The pilot is scheduled for completion in December 2007.

The police say fingerprints taken from drivers will not be stored, but this has not allayed the fears of civil liberties campaigners.

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