Toronto Police inks electronic fingerprint deal

Toronto Police Services is about to join a growing number of Canadian law enforcement agencies moving from ink to digital fingerprints.

Motorola said

it would be providing a upgrade of the Omnitrak Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) Toronto Police Services has been using since 1997 as well as 10 LiveScan 3000 stations, which will capture both fingerprints and palmprints from individuals instead of the ink-rolled prints.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have already been using Omnitrak for some time. Its system is accessible by a number of provincial and municipal police services, but Toronto has since 1990 hosted its own localized database, according to Clive Richards, a detective sergeant with the city’s Forensic Investigation Services. Toronto Police Services hopes to have all the LiveScan stations in place before the end of this year, and will implement Omnitrak, which stores, searches and matches the prints, next year.

“”We had this whole business case before the RCMP rolled out this system,”” he said. “”We were just a long time getting our (agreement) signed.””

Toronto Police Services had previously scanned the ink prints into its local database, but scanning from a live finger (or hand, in the case of a palmprint) should dramatically speed up the process of submitting and retrieving prints, Richards said. “”Instead of waiting two or three weeks to find out who somebody is, you can find out in a minute,”” he said.

Toronto won’t be the only one to benefit from the project. A partnership with police services in York, Durham, Halton, Niagara and Ottawa allows remote access to the Toronto database.

“”Whenever you have a manual process it’s going to be time-consuming, it’s going to be messy,”” said Motorola Inc. spokeswoman Cameron Triebwasser. “”You’re obviously going to be more accurate (with an electronic system).””

Richards said Omnitrak will allow Toronto Police Services to identify older scans. This is important, because police used to just keep one copy of a fingerprint on file. “”With the ink, there’s not always a consistent roll,”” he said. “”The fingerprint goes almost from fingernail to fingernail. It’s not just a dab . . . You could actually have an outstanding print and you’d never be able to match because we’d only have the one set.””

Omnitrak will also allow Toronto Police Services to electronically track palmprints, which often come up on the window sills of break-and-enter locations or on forged cheques, Richards said.

“”If there aren’t any fingerprints, it’s really been a useful tool,”” added Triebwasser, noting that 30 per cent of the prints taken at crime scenes come from palms. “”More and more agencies are implementing that idea of putting palmprints in the databases.””

Electronic fingerprint scans usually come in at about 500 dots per inch, Richards said, compared to about 2,000 to 300 dpi for ink prints, but police don’t go to that minute level of detail very often.

“”We could do an ink (print) if we really, really needed to, but we probably won’t have to,”” he said. “”If we have a really poor quality latent print where we actually physically take a certain portion or the palm, you could do that manually.””

Triebwasser said Motorola has deployed statewide Omnitrak systems in approximately 19 states. Other Canadian users include Transport Canada.

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