Frontline police across the country will be able to use their smartphones to identify people in less than a minute after a trial of new mobile fingerprinting technology in West Yorkshire.
A phone app, combined with a handheld scanner, means they can check fingerprints against live criminal and immigration databases on the spot.
Early examples of the new system in action include a firearms unit, who detained a driver after a short pursuit and were able to identify him as a disqualified driver, despite him giving false details. He was issued with a summons for three offences and his vehicle seized.
The armed response unit returned to patrol within 10 minutes compared to being out of action for up to four hours as they took the suspect to a custody suite.
Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd today said: “The Biometric Services Gateway is just one of a series of national systems the Home Office is designing with police to give officers information at their fingertips faster than ever before.
“By cutting out unnecessary trips to and from the police station, mobile technology is really helping to save valuable time and allowing officers to do what they do best – cutting crime and keeping us safe.”
He said that if all forces delivered the level of productivity from mobile working that the leading forces had achieved, the average officer could spend an hour a day extra on the frontline.
The Biometric Services Gateway, enabled by Home Office technology, will also lead to significant costs savings, with the new system available at a fraction of the cost of those now in use.
The scanners used by West Yorkshire Police cost less than £300 – 10 per cent of the cost of current mobile systems.
West Yorkshire’s 5,500 frontline officers already have access to the app and an initial roll out of 250 scanners to officers will begin in the coming weeks.
It is expected that another 20 forces nationwide will roll out the system by the end of this year.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle said: “As we have already experienced in the trial, the combination of these digital solutions bring tangible benefits to policing our communities.
“It means we can submit fingerprints of suspects from the street to a live time national database and receive results in less than a minute.
“We have seen first-hand, for instance, how this rapid identification has enabled speedy and accurate medical treatment based on the records available. Its use also allows relatives to attend hospital to see their loved ones when time is of the essence.”
To ensure the information accessed remains secure, fingerprints are not stored and are automatically deleted from the device once they have been checked.
The Rapid Forensics project, led by the Wakefield-based Regional Scientific Support Services, has led to the introduction of digital transmission of forensic evidence such as fingerprints and bootprints.
West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “The introduction of the Biometrics Services Gateway shows how West Yorkshire Police is once again leading the way with new technology.
"Using this advanced technology means officers are out on the street providing that visible presence rather than dealing with suspects in custody and could eventually enable the introduction of new automated systems, further ensuring officers are freed up to provide reassurance in our communities."