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Long finger of the law

PUBLISHED: 10:29 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:53 23 August 2010

A HANDHELD device which allows police to check fingerprints on the move is being piloted in the county. Kent Police is one of 18 forces across the country taking part in the trial, which means officers can check whether someone is on Ident1, the National

A HANDHELD device which allows police to check fingerprints on the move is being piloted in the county.

Kent Police is one of 18 forces across the country taking part in the trial, which means officers can check whether someone is on Ident1, the National Fingerprint Database.

The force has been given 10 of the devices, known as Lantern, to trial for the rest of the year. Two are being used in north Kent.

This month, the device was used on two shoplifters at a store in Gravesend, and readings came back that they were known to police. Both were given penalty notices.

Detective Superintendent Colin Croucher, head of the forensic investigation department at Kent Police, said: "With this piece of equipment fewer criminals will evade justice. If an officer is suspicious as to a person's identity, fingerprints can be taken by the device and sent instantly to the National Fingerprint Database to see if the person is registered. This will tell us immediately if further action is required by the officer.

"Establishing someone's identity more quickly will also mean officers can spend more time on patrol. It takes around three hours to arrest someone, transfer them to a police station and check their identity. This device will be invaluable in the amount of time saved."

Fingerprints taken that are not on the national database will be discarded immediately. Members of the public are being asked to take part in the scheme on a voluntary basis.

However, refusing to provide prints may result in an officer having to arrest and detain someone until their identity has been established.

Lantern works by electronically scanning the index finger, which is then sent, using encrypted wireless transmissions, to the National Fingerprint Database.

A search is carried out against 6.5 million other prints and any matches are returned to the officers within five minutes.

The device has been awarded the Government Computing Award for Best Project.

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