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Police employ palm readers to investigate crime

Police employ palm readers to investigate crime

Massive upgrades to nationwide police databases add biometrics to crime fighting warchest.

Law enforcement agencies will have access to advanced biometrics and nationwide databases containing information on DNA and "persons-of-interest" as part of a plan to tighten department collaboration investigations by July 2008.

Under the plan, state law enforcement agencies will supply DNA and personal information into the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database (NCIDD) from cold cases to persons of interest, which includes those people with outstanding warrants or even holders of firearms permits.

At the federal level, DNA information will be separated from personal information like names and addresses and will be stored in alphanumeric strings within the NCIDD.

The "junk DNA" data is then forwarded to the state agencies which link the information to criminal records.

National criminal database CrimTrac CEO Ben McDevitt said the government has given legs to the National NCIDD through a mandate which will increase its user base of police officers from 15,000 to 50,000 in less than 12 months.

"Users already have access to the old National Name Index, which provides only basis criminal information, and we will merely transfer the (35,000) identities over," McDevitt said.

"We are using facial recognition, deep palm and iris reading, fingerprinting, identity searching and matching, but there are real issues with passing the information around through departments."

McDevitt said the intent of officers accessing the NCIDD can't be guaranteed and access they might be looking up to see what an ex-partner is doing."

CrimTrac can monitor access and changes to data and can record keystrokes made whenever the system is accessed.

Familial matching will be deployed along with kinship matching as part of the project to assist criminal investigations. The technology, which helped arrest 43 suspects involved in the 2001 Bali bombings, will use the NCIDD to link suspects' DNA profiles to natural relatives.

According to McDevitt, palm prints will improve the investigation capabilities of law enforcement because they represent one in four prints at a crime scene.

"I would argue that it is likely you would eventually need to supply your finger or palm prints to get your passport at the Post Office," he said.

He said the technology has solved more than 18,000 crimes since its inception, and claimed the Department of Defence houses the world's largest database of palm prints.

The South Australia Police is spearheading the upgrades to the NCIDD by uploading some 3000 profiles tied to cold cases.

CrimTrac's inter-governmental agreement require the agency to deliver four new database systems to improve information sharing between police and government agencies. The Canberra-based agency has 145 staff and has operated under the Attorney General's department since its formation in 2001.

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