Fingerprint link traps fugitive Scots

A pioneering high-tech scheme is being used to trap Scottish criminals on the run in their favourite English seaside resort.

An electronic fingerprint link tells police in Glasgow within minutes whether wanted men have been picked up by police in Blackpool, which is packed during the summer with Scottish holidaymakers and job-hunters. The trial scheme is the only one of its kind in Europe and links Blackpool police station with the database of 300,000 fingerprints at the Scottish Criminal Record Office.

Operation Tower has led to the capture of five men wanted by Scottish police forces and can trap those using false names within minutes. They put their forefinger on a small box and the image is flashed to Scotland where computer technology matches it to prints on the database. The system is widely used in the United States and could be introduced throughout Scotland if the trials continue to be successful.

Chief Inspector Alf Hitchcock, of Lancashire Police, said: "Blackpool was chosen for the trials because it gets 16 million visitors in the summer, including a big proportion from Scotland. There is a huge turnover of people and it is an ideal town for a test. It is a very simple system and what used to take days can be done within an hour."