RCMP nabs new print access system

The RCMP says a new fingerprint access system will make it easier for them to book the bad guys before they get away.

Starting in March, Printrak, a Motorola company, will provide the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with a new fingerprint identification system that will allow members to match up fingerprints captured at crime scenes, called latents, with a national database containing 3.3 million standard fingerprint records, called tenprints.

The RCMP chose the Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification Access System (RAFIAS) based on a public bidding process, and Benoit Desjardins, spokesperson for RCMP, said the move will definitely change things for the better for Mounties country-wide.

“The old system was basically custom-made (by) a company that doesn’t even exist anymore and they couldn’t get new parts to upgrade this old system,” Desjardins said from his Ottawa office. “It was still on a 386 PC, so it was very outdated.”

The initial system will include four RAFIAS pilot sites and 26 additional RAFIAS workstations with an option to purchase up to 171 additional workstations. The four pilot sites and additional Phase 1 workstations are scheduled for installation in early 2002.

“It’s much, much faster and for any of us on the road, it will be faster for us to obtain confirmation of the prints at the scene,” Desjardins said. “In a short time, you can get the information if you have a hit on the system. It will be a great tool for the RCMP for the future.”

Currently, the RCMP uses a cumbersome system called Photo Phone, which has only limited tenprint fingerprint capture and submission capabilities. The new system will allow the RCMP to capture, enhance and submit tenprint and latent fingerprints through advanced Web browser features and capabilities.

Terry Brukewich, regional sales director for Printrak Canada, said the company is currently still finishing the development of the initial workstation, which will act as the prototype for the rest of the country.

“It’s proprietary software designed to do the searches based on characteristics of the fingers,” Brukewich said from Ottawa. “We all have unique fingers and the characteristics are broken down in things called minutiea points. These points are plotted before expert fingerprint people at the RCMP.”

The investigating officers submit the prints to the system, where they are compared to those in the database until the system finds similar prints based on finger characteristics. “Instead of looking for all the prints on the database, it searches for particular characteristics,” he said.

While RAFIAS will require the RCMP to undergo some new training, Brukewich said the program would be relatively easy to use and will run on the Windows OS.

Printrak, A Motorola Company, based in Anaheim, Calif., is at http://www.motorola.com/printrak

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with detachments across Canada, is at http://www.rcmp.ca/