Police trial roadside fingerprint reader

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The Independent Online

Police trials of a hand-held electronic fingerprint reader were beginning today.

Experts hope the device will save massive amounts of police time and money by allowing officers to identify suspects on the roadside without having to take them to the station.

A pilot scheme - called Project Lantern - will be used from today in Luton, Bedfordshire, by officers targeting motoring offences.

The gadget allows officers to search 6.5 million fingerprints archived on the National Automated Fingerprint System, with the trial aiming to give them a result within five minutes.

The Home Office's Police Information Technology Organisation (Pito) calculates it could save more than £2.2 million a year.

Fingerprints can only be taken from the public voluntarily using the Lantern system because the law will have to be changed before officers can force people to give prints on the street.

Police minister Tony McNulty said: "This trial represents an important step forward in our commitment to ensuring we have an effective and efficient police service fully equipped for the challenges of modern policing.

"The new technology will speed up the time it takes for Police to identify individuals at the roadside, enabling them to spend more time on the frontline and reducing any inconvenience for innocent members of the public."

The Lantern device electronically scans the index fingers and sends an encrypted wireless transmission to the central fingerprint database.

It scans the database and identifies possible matches.

Pito's head of fingerprint identification, Chris Wheeler, said: "This pilot will help us explore the accuracy and capacity issues around the device in a live scenario."

Work on the pilot - due to run until the end of next year- would feed in to drawing up a scheme which can be introduced across the country, he added.

The other nine forces rolling out the pilot over the next two months are British Transport Police, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, the Metropolitan police, North Wales, Northamptonshire, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.