Files of fingerprints to go electronic; New inkless scanner simplifies process

By Stephen Gurr
Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

In the future, the thousands of ink-smudged fingerprint cards on file at police departments will be obsolete, authorities say. The fingerprints taken will travel through a digital pipeline, instantly accessible on a computer monitor at the touch of a button.

The Aiken, S.C. Department of Public Safety is taking a step toward that paperless future with its latest high-tech gadget - an inkless fingerprint scanner that easily could be from the world of James Bond.

The Cross Match-brand fingerprint scanner is a $30,000 machine paid for by a U.S. Department of Justice grant and a 10 percent match from the city. The machine scans, categorizes and prints fingerprints in half the time of traditional ink-printing, said Aiken Department of Public Safety Chief Pete Frommer.

"This technology has been on the market for several years, it just wasn''t affordable," the chief said. "It''s easier, cleaner, and a lot faster."

The machine operates much like an optical scanner, reading the swirls and ridges of the human finger tips - creating a clean, crisp and magnified computer image. While three sets of print cards - one for the police department, one for the FBI and one for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division - are printed out, soon they will be electronically transferred, Chief Frommer said.

The machine is a perfect companion to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System at the Aiken County Sheriff''s Office and is used to make computerized fingerprint matches with local, state and national data bases. Aiken Public Safety Lt. Phil Kestin said the systems soon will be linked, eliminating time-consuming steps taken to locate fingerprint matches in criminal investigations.

A portable laptop model of the Cross Match also is available for taking prints of school children at safety fairs, Chief Frommer said.

The new machine has proven to be a popular among Aiken''s safety officers, Lt. Kestin says.

"This is a piece of equipment people actually want to learn how to use," he said.

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