Fingerprinting device gives law enforcement a high-tech touch
07/22/2010
Carroll County Times

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Law enforcement officials hope some new technology will allow police officers to be better able to tell if they're dealing with someone on probation.

The Livescan technology ties information into a collection of law enforcement databases that officers can access from the computers in their cars.

Livescan collects digital images of prints from each finger and all five fingers at once, as well as various parts of a person's hand, said Ron Brothers, chief information officer for Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The machine also takes photos.

When the prints are submitted, they're matched up against almost 9 million prints the state has on file. The machine creates an entry on the person's criminal record to let police know the suspect is being supervised by parole and probation, Brothers said.

Maj. Ron Stevens, of the Westminster Police Department, said that while police can check to see if a person has an open arrest warrant, they don't currently have easy access to parole and probation records.

The new technology will allow officers to pull up records on the computers mounted in their police cars that tell them if a person is being supervised by parole and probation and, if so, why, he said.

Stevens said he thought the new technology would increase officer safety by giving officers access to more information. And the more officers know about a suspect or person they're dealing with, the more they can use that information to convince the person to tell them even more, he said.

The technology was demonstrated Wednesday at an event at the Westminster office of the state's Division of Parole and Probation.

Livescan also lets parole and probation agents confirm that the person who reports to them is the person who's supposed to be there, said Patrick McGee, director of the Division of Parole and Probation.

While that hasn't been a major problem in the past, it has happened, he said.

The Westminster parole and probation office currently oversees more than 1,500 active cases, according to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

According to a department release, 29 Livescan machines have been installed in offices around the state, with more to come.

The 14 most recent machines were provided through a grant for nearly $405,000 from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Kevin Hogan, of the Westminster office, said the technology will allow the office to have fingerprints, pictures and other information in one location.

New clients also won't have to go over to the central booking facility at the Carroll County Detention Center to be fingerprinted if they've never been before, such as if they were issued a criminal summons to appear in court rather than being arrested, he said.

Reach staff writer Ryan Marshall at 410-857-7865 or ryan.marshall@carrollcountytimes.com.