Government Technology

Palm Readers


January 26, 2005 By

For nearly 40 years, the police department in Henderson, Nev., collected criminals' palm prints and stored them for a rainy day. That day finally came in June 2003, thanks to an upgrade of the city's entire public safety communication system.

The project included scanning several decades of palm prints into a newly created database, which already produced some arrests. Henderson's palm database is part of a digital justice solution that integrates existing software systems into a records management system, giving officers in the field simple and immediate access to multiple information sources previously inaccessible to police on the go.

Collecting and storing palm prints and fingerprints gives authorities a greater chance of linking suspects to crimes, said Henderson Police Capt. Jutta Chambers. "Sometimes because of the type of surface that somebody is grabbing or the location of the surface they touch, the only part that actually keeps any ridge detail is the palm."

Palm Print Database

The Henderson Police Department is the only agency in Nevada that routinely collects palm prints. Most agencies take a palm print only in major cases, such as murder, to link a suspect's prints to prints at the scene, Chambers said.

Prior to deploying the new system, however, Henderson authorities had a difficult time using the information. They occasionally tried to link crimes to palm prints on file, but it was time consuming and a specific person had to be in mind.

Now Henderson police can electronically search a newly scanned print and link it with a print in the system if one exists. The system can also link suspects to previous crimes for which no one was ever caught.

More Than a Name

With Henderson's digital justice system, supplied by Motorola, a person's name also means more than it did before. Police in the field can, with on e query, scan for information on previous arrests, old reports, stolen property, traffic violations, and search a history of people and addresses previously involved in crimes.

The system puts information at the fingertips of officials who need it -- including fire, animal control and marshals -- through a single query. Previously multiple queries had to be made to find all the information on one subject.

Prior to this system, if John Doe was involved in a traffic accident five years ago and was arrested recently on burglary charges, there would have been two different records in two databases. Now, entering John Doe's name will yield both incidents in the same query.

"If you've been the victim of a traffic accident in Henderson, you're in our records management system," Chambers said. "If you now get arrested several months or a year later, [the system] knows we've already talked to you before. So now, if I run a person, he's in there one time, but all the things that happened to him are listed there, instead of there being five or six different records."

There is also a jail management component that automates the correctional facility's day-to-day operational and administrative functions. This component is a suite of integrated applications that facilitate the nearly 12,000 bookings per year and manages the daily population of 100-plus offenders.

The system comprises Motorola public safety products, some of which were already in place, including PublicSpeak, the company's common information model, which provides an XML schema across applications; automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS)/palm print identification technology; a LiveScan fingerprint scanner; Motorola's computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system; and Infotrak, which gives officials access to multiple databases with one query, and also allows them to create and submit reports through the Web.

A GIS mapping component tells police where a call originated and the shortest route to the incident. This feature has improved response times, Chambers


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