Every police force in England and Wales can now search a national database of hand prints, following the roll-out of new software by the Police Information Technology Organisation (Pito).
This is the first time national searching has been possible, although forces have been collecting palm prints – which can account for up to 20% of the marks found at crime scenes – for more than two years.
The palm searching software has already been used to make a positive identification by Northamptonshire Police, which matched a handprint taken from the scene of a robbery in October 2005 to one held on a local database. Humberside police have also reported 20 matches since starting to use the software earlier this month.
The palm searching capability is an extension of IDENT1 – the biometric technology platform that replaces the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS).
The IDENT1 service contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation in a £122m deal last year. Other IDENT1 systems in development include mobile fingerprint checking, facial imaging and video identification.
Pito has also begun work this month to replace the Holmes 2 serious crime investigation system. But the police IT agency is due to be absorbed into the new National Police Improvement Agency, which is already running in shadow form and will assume full statutory powers in 2007.