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Photos: Cops use tech to point the finger of suspicion

Mobile fingerprint scanners help police catch the bad guys
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1 of 4 Nick Heath/ZDNet

Mobile fingerprint scanners help police catch the bad guys

A recent trial, Project Lantern, saw about 200 scanners - seen here - used to take roadside scans from suspects to be checked against the police national biometric database, Ident1.

The trial has been running for 18 months in a number of forces and fingerprint scanners will now be rolled out across the UK as part of Project Midas.

It is estimated the mobile fingerprinting system saves about 67 minutes per search and if it were scaled to a national level, as planned under Midas, it would be equivalent to having an extra 336 officers on the beat, the NPIA says.

During Project Lantern, the system was used alongside automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems checks to verify the identity of people in vehicles flagged up as of interest to the police.

According to Geoff Whitaker, CTO of biometrics for the NPIA, speaking at Biometrics Conference 2008, 60 per cent of drivers stopped for an ANPR check have tried to give false details to the police.

Photo credit: NPIA

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2 of 4 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The machine takes a scan of a person's left and right index finger, as seen here, which are matched against the 7.5 million sets of fingerprint samples in Ident1.

Around 80 per cent of searches are returned in two minutes and 97 per cent are returned in five minutes.

Data from the scan is sent over the GPRS network via an encrypted virtual private network, as the police's dedicated Airwave network is unable to carry enough data.

Photo credit: NPIA

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3 of 4 Nick Heath/ZDNet

Matches are ranked as high or medium confidence, as seen here, where high confidence is a match of 95 per cent accuracy.

For less confident matches three possible identities will be sent back. The system returns the person's name, age and gender, which can help establish an identity in such cases.

Under Project Midas it is hoped to add the ability to send mug shots to the handheld device.

Whitaker said that none of the information used in the check is retained.

Photo credit: NPIA

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4 of 4 Nick Heath/ZDNet

"People have been stopped who have presented legitimate looking passports or driving licences but a fingerprint check has found them recorded with a different name.

"It has later been found that these were forged documents or the person has changed their name by deed poll and assumed another identity," Whitaker said.

As well as use with ANPR cameras, as seen here, Whitaker added that the mobile system is useful for reducing the chance of wrongful arrest, for identifying dead people, for use in unequipped rural police stations and during large gatherings or events.

Photo credit: NPIA

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