POLICE Scotland today unveiled their latest weapon in the fight against crime - high-tech fingerprint scanners.
The devices, which are linked to a Blackberry mobile phone, are being trialled for the first time in Scotland by specialist unit and roads policing officers in the Aberdeen City Division.
The sophisticated devices, which can identify criminals in seconds, have already been successfully tested by forces south of the border but are now being trialled in the Granite City in a pilot project being backed by the Home Office.
The mobile scanning device takes pictures of the index finger of the left and right hand and can be directly linked to the estimated five millions prints on the national fingerprint database, alerting police officers if the person they have fingerprinted has a criminal record within15 to 20 seconds.
The device could also be used to quickly identify murder and road accident victims.
Chief Inspector Nick Topping, the area commander of Aberdeen City North, said the device had the potential to free up hours of police time in fingerprinting suspects at police stations.
He stressed: “The device takes photographs of the finger. It does not take fingerprints. And it only comes back with a positive result if the person has a previous conviction and is on the national data base. It cannot store the photographs and does not record the scans that are taken.”
Chief Insp Topping explained that, as well as providing officers with quick and early identification, the device could also be used identify people in situations where there was cause for concern about their health or well being - people unconscious from heavy drinking or drug misuse..
He said: “If someone, for example, is insulin dependent it could throw up some medical concerns and allow for quick identification.”
Chief Inspector Topping, continued: “The mobile fingerprint scanners will be of great benefit to officers across the Granite City, as they have the real potential to free up police time by providing quick and early identification of an individual and allow officers more time on the street, working within their local communities.
“It can be a considerable impact on our time to have to convey people to a police station in order to confirm their identification where there may be dubiety. The mobile scanners can quickly confirm this and ultimately, free up officers to be on the streets protecting the public.”
He added: “The scanners will also provide opportunities for police to detect the small minority who may attempt to pervert the course of justice by providing false details. This is another example of Police Scotland making use of new modern technology and the devices could essentially free up hundreds of hours of officers’ time so that they can provide extra visibility and presence in their local communities where they are needed most.”
In some cases the fingerprints can only be scanned with the consent of the individual. But there are areas within the criminal law in which officers can insist on the scans being taken. Those who refuse will; be taken a police station for formal identification.