Police to use handheld fingerprint scanners in the street
The scheme, called Project Midas, will transform the speed of criminal investigations, according to the police.
It is thought the new technology could be in widespread use within 18 months.
Details of the scheme were revealed by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) at the Biometrics 2008 conference.
The Mobile Identification At Scene (Midas) project, will cost between £30 to £40 million. Fingerprints taken using the device will be compared against the national police database, which holds information on 7.5 million individuals.
Geoff Whitaker, a senior technology officer from NPIA, said Project Midas would save enormous amounts of police time and reduce the amount of wrongful arrests.
To take fingerprints currently, officers have to take a suspect into custody suites. Research shows this takes 67 minutes on average.
Mr Whitaker said: “If we scaled this [saving] up to the national level that would equate to 366 additional police officers on the beat.”
He suggested policing of sporting events and festivals could benefit, as well as immigration and border control.
He said Project Midas would give the police “a full, mobile national capability” to check identities.
The system may potentially beam images of suspects back to officers – some US police forces are already using such technology.
Project Lantern, a trial of mobile devices, started in 2006. The devices were used in police cars using automatic number plate recognition technology and stopped vehicles logged as stolen or having no insurance.
Fingerprint checks often showed they were carrying false documents.
Response time for Lantern took between two to five minutes generally, and responses were graded as “high” or “medium” depending on how confident they were of a match.
A NPIA spokeswoman said: “It will be up to each police authority to assess the benefits and see how many they want. Early indications are that the benefits will be huge.”
Liberty, the civil rights group, has warned however that fingerprints taken in such a way would require them to be deleted straight afterwards – police have already insisted fingerprints would not be stored.
Gareth Crossman, Liberty’s policy director, said: “Saving time with new technology could help police performance but officers must make absolutely certain that they take fingerprints only when they suspect an individual of an offence and can’t establish his identity.”
The only Midas Touch here is the gold each fingerprint reader is going to make for the vendor of this vile police state equipment.
This is a very bad idea. It is the modern equivalent of the Apartheid ‘Pass Laws’, that were:
[…] designed to segregate the population and limit severely the movements of the non-white populace. This legislation was one of the dominant features of the country’s apartheid system. Introduced in South Africa in 1923, they were designed to regulate movement of black Africans in urban areas. Outside designated “homelands”, black South Africans had to carry passbooks (“dom pas”, meaning dumb pass) at all times, documentation proving they were authorised to live or move in “White” South Africa.
The laws also affected other non-white races. Indian people, for example, were barred from the Orange Free State.
These discriminatory regulations sparked outrage from the black population and the ANC began the Defiance Campaign to oppose the pass laws.
This conflict climaxed at the Sharpeville Massacre where the black opposition was violently put down, with 69 people killed and over 180 injured.
The system of pass laws was repealed in South Africa in 1986.
What this article fails to mention are the effects that this device will have. Everyone will be required to be fingerprinted wether they are a criminal or not. That means the Police will have discretion to fingerprint who they like at will. As I say in the BLOGDIAL posts linked above, if you are scanned on the street and the machine comes up with nothing, what does that actually mean? Are they going to let you go because they have nothing on you? Or maybe because you are not in the database you MUST be illegal.
This device will not prevent crime; in fact, it will increase the amount of crime, and exponentially increase the amount of hatred for the beleaguered police.
Liberty, that organization that is made of pure fail, once again says nothing to address the true nature of this device and the inevitable consequences of its being rolled out.
This device is useless without an NIR that contains everyone in it. Of course, criminals will not line up to enter the NIR, so anyone who turns up as un-scannable will be immediately hauled off to gaol not so that they can find out who you are, but because you are not in the database. All tourists will be put on the NIR with a ‘tourists’ flag on their entry, so if someone coming here to see Big Ben gets scanned, his details will show up on the device like everyone else’s, only with a ‘tourist’ flag.
This device will not reduce the amount of wrongful arrests. It will greatly increase the number of arrests as people who do not turn up on the database will have to be taken into custody to be identified. That is also the case for the 10% of times when the database or equipment is down.
Also, this article is mixing up ‘checking identities’ with checking people against the criminal database. Checking against the criminal database doesn’t say anything about the current intentions of a person who is stopped. Think about it; a police officer might stop a reformed burglar on the street during one of their random sweeps. They find that this guy is in the database of criminals. Does this mean he should be subjected to extra scrutiny because he was a bad guy? What about the bad guys who are not in the database because they have not yet been caught and convicted once?
This device will not and can not catch criminals. It cannot detect crime or the intention of crime. It is as useless as ID cards in crime fighting. Finding out someone’s real name and some biographical details about them does nothing to prevent crime, and in fact, fingerprinting people on the street is the only crime that is being committed here.
Then of course, there is the next step in development, where the reach of these devices is spread to the NIR, as I describe above. That is inevitable, since the majority of people are not in the criminal database, and the police will argue that they need to know exactly who everyone is at a crime scene to help them investigate crime.
Its all baloney of course, and this is just another angle from which pressure is going to be applied for the full roll out of the NIR and ID cards. This is the ultimate goal, the vendors wet dream and everyone’s nightmare.