Investigators have collected palm prints for two years, but national searching has not been possible until now.
The introduction of the Palm Searching system means that palm prints found at crime scenes can be automatically searched against a national database.
This is the first major extension of Ident1, the biometric technology that is replacing the national automated fingerprint identification system.
Ident1 will allow searching of all mainland UK records for the first time, and has already been used successfully. Humberside Police has reported 20 hits since starting to use the capability at the beginning of March.
The Ident1 service contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation in November.
The national police fingerprint database has crashed 96 times in the past 12 months, according to a Home Office minister.
Hazel Blears, minister of state for crime, security and communities, told parliament that 36 of these outages lasted for more than two hours.
"There has been disruption and problems to the Ident1 service during the migration process in the last few months," Blears said. "These problems are being addressed by Pito and should result in a robust and reliable service to the police forces being resumed as soon as possible.