Police to Fingerprint Drivers for Quick Identification
New technologies in surveillance and identification are changing the way police work is done. In one pilot program, police use high tech equipment to scan license plates of passing cars automatically. Suspect vehicles are identified by automatically checking license plate numbers against a central database, and are pulled over. The driver's fingerprints can then be digitally scanned and sent to a fingerprint database for positive identification.
Police in Bedfordshire England are participating in a pilot program, whereby drivers who are stopped by the police may be fingerprinted using an digital hand-held device for quick identification. Currently, only about 40% of drivers reveal their true identity to the police officers.
The police are also using vehicle mounted camera with optical recognition to scan the license plates of passing vehicles, and query a database to determine whether or the plate belongs to an "offending" vehicle. Suspect vehicles may be pulled over if, for example, the vehicle is uninsured or has been reported stolen.
"It's a first to search a national database and get a response back in a couple of minutes." says Chris Wheeler, of the Police Information Technology organzation, according to BBC News.
London already has one of the most extensive surveillance systems in the world, with camera practically on every corner, in busses, shopping malls, and subways. It is estimated that there are approximately 2 million cameras throughout Britain, most of which are owned by private companies.
In an age where there is an increasing wariness of terrorism, cameras, fingerprinting, and other emerging technologies are a growing reality.
Police say these tools are invaluabe for solving crimes, and with such devices as the fingerprint scanner, they can save hours of time and a trip to the station, thereby allowing officers to more efficiently focus their efforts.
But there are complaints that these new technologies infringe on civil liberties, and citizen privacy, and in some cases, access to footage and release of footage have already been inappropriate.
In the United States, resistance to invasions of privacy has remained somewhat strong, but as people grow accustomed to cameras, fingerprinting, and other security technologies, and as business and government benefit from their use, the growth in this industry will remain robust.
See: BBC News - "Motorists to Give Fingerprints"