JIS News

The investigative capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is being boosted with the acquisition of Automated Palm and Fingerprint Identification System (APFIS) for the Fingerprint Bureau.
The machine, which is being purchased from Sagem SA of France at a cost of US$3.61 million, is to be shipped by December 15 and is expected to arrive in the island by late December.
Sagem SA, the manufacturer of APFIS, is involved in the production of consumer electronics, defence and communications systems. The company is expected to develop and install the system and train members of the Fingerprint Bureau in its use.
National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, who signed the contract for the purchase in July, said that the acquisition would “strengthen the capacity of the state to track down and prosecute criminal offenders to the full extent of the law.”
The Minister noted that the system was expected to help the JCF to “utilize the opportunity and potential for using fingerprint technology in crime solving and to build an appropriate finger and palm print database in order to facilitate more efficient and effective checking of palm and fingerprints”. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Michael Grant has assured that the finger printing process was secure.
Explaining the collecting procedure, he noted that any set of fingerprints found at a crime scene was rolled on a finger print form, and then taken to the Bureau for classification. The collated information, he said, was then stored in a database for later use.
The Detective Inspector noted that if an individual was held in question for wrongdoings, then his fingers were swabbed and prints taken. “If that person was convicted before, a set of his prints would be on file,” he told JIS News, adding that, “we would then identify the individual from the filed prints through a process of ridge characteristics.” Ridge characteristics, he explained, were distinguishing features found in fingerprints that were unique to an individual.
He added that in his 23 years of processing fingerprints for the entire island, including members of the security forces, he has “never found any two fingerprints to be the same.”
Interestingly, the use of fingerprints in crime fighting has declined since 1999. Previously, there was large-scale use if suspects were thought to be repeat offenders.
Communications Director at the Ministry of National Security, Neville Graham, giving the rationale for the new acquisition, pointed out that the system now used by the Bureau was outdated, hence, the need to acquire a “system that can easily collect fingerprints and quickly do a database search.” In addition, he said that the new system would remove the inefficiencies that exist with the current system.
As recent as March, legislation was passed in the Houses of Parliament to allow the police to obtain fingerprints and photographs without a court order. The Bill also gave the Fingerprint Bureau the right to retain these prints and photographs following an acquittal. The legislation will be applicable to children over the age of 12 years.