MIDAS technology gets the go-ahead

Police officers across the country will soon be able to check an
individual’s identity at the roadside within two minutes following the
introduction of a new mobile fingerprinting device later this year.

Mar 4, 2010
By Paul Jacques
Lissie Harper. Picture: PA news agency

Police officers across the country will soon be able to check an individual’s identity at the roadside within two minutes following the introduction of a new mobile fingerprinting device later this year.

MIDAS (Mobile Identity At the Scene) is to be rolled out nationally following the success of the National Policing Improvement Agency’s (NPIA) Lantern project, which is currently trialling mobile identification in 28 UK police forces. The Lantern device works by electronically scanning the subject’s index fingers and sending the data using encrypted wireless transmissions to the central fingerprint database. A real-time search against the national fingerprint collection of 8.3 million prints is performed and any possible matches are identified and transmitted to an officer in a target time of less than two minutes.

The Lantern pilot, which involves 330 devices, has helped the development of the national solution for use by all forces by demonstrating how it performs in an operational environment. The pilot will end this summer when the new devices begin to roll out to forces in England and Wales.

The NPIA has signed a contract with biometric identification specialist Cogent Systems to supply the mobile fingerprint identification devices which will allow police officers to scan a person’s fingerprints while on the beat, quickly identifying those who are known to the police. This will save the public’s time, police officer’s time and help increase the number of offenders brought to justice.

3,000 new devices

During the first year of roll-out, up to 3,000 new devices will be deployed to forces in England and Wales, helping to cut the number of trips police make back to the police station and giving them more time to spend on the frontline. For example, rather than arresting and detaining an individual to establish their identity, which can take up to several hours, it will take a couple of minutes.

As an example, officers stopped a man who produced an Irish passport as proof of identity. The officers then checked his identity against the national fingerprint database using a mobile identification device and the results came back within minutes, identifying the man as an offender who fled the UK 11 years ago after being found guilty of raping an 11-year-old girl.

Other benefits reported from officers currently using mobile identification devices as part of the national Lantern pilot, include:

•An average saving of at least 30 minutes per case where used.
•Reducing the number of people taken back to the police station to establish their identity.
•Identification of unconscious or fatal victims at a crime or accident scene.
•Improved levels of public confidence.

Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, Chief Executive of the NPIA, said:“From hours to minutes, advances in fingerprinting technology are helping the police to identify one person from many.

“Identification is crucial to police investigations and giving officers the ability to do this on-the-spot within minutes is giving them more time to spend working in their communities; helping to fight crime, bringing more offenders to justice and better protecting the public.

“The NPIA looks forward to working with Cogent Systems to ensure this new technology is rolled out to all forces.”  

Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead on mobile identification, added: “We are entering exciting times with the progression of this new capability. This new technology will allow police to confirm the identity of suspects on the street more easily without having to arrest them and return to the police station to confirm who they are as we currently have to.

“It also means cost savings equivalent to releasing some 360 officers back to frontline policing each year.”

Ming Hsieh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cogent Systems, said the company aimed to

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