Fingerprint compression to speed up search for criminals

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Fingerprint compression to speed up search for criminals
Catching criminals could become quicker thanks to a new fingerprint technique developed by British scientists.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England have developed a technique to compress fingerprints lifted from a crime scene so they can be transmitted to a fingerprint bureau in a fraction of the normal four to 20 minutes.

"Now we can transmit a lift within 30-60 seconds," Professor Nigel Alinson told a news conference on Monday at the British Association Festival of Science.

The system, which will be used by all 43 U.K police forces, was approved by the National Fingerprint Board earlier this year.

Instead of visiting several crime scenes and waiting until the end of the day to get the prints to a bureau, crime scene examiners can use a laptop with a wireless card and a small scanner to send them via mobile phone networks.

In an area of England where the system was tested it takes, on average, four days to get an identity. The system could reduce that to less than two hours, according to Alinson.

"The current record time for an examiner attending a scene to a suspect's identity being obtained is 20 minutes," he said.

Alinson and his colleagues are also working on developing technology to identify footwear impressions and shoe patterns taken from crime scenes.

Although footwear evidence is not as unique as DNA or fingerprints, Alinson said there is more chance of picking up footprints from the scene than fingerprints.

Since January, new police powers in England allow footwear impressions to be taken from crime scenes and stored and searched in a database.

"There is no practical technology to do this at the moment - it is done manually," said Alinson.

The software he and his team are working on will compare features of the shoe with a reference library of up to 12,000 different models.
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