Roll-out of mobile fingerprint scanners

23 May 2012

A mobile fingerprint scanner in use.

New mobile fingerprint scanners which can check a person's identity in two minutes are being rolled out across the MPS.

From today, Wednesday May 23, Mobile Identification [MobileID] will 'go live' across the force as part of the Commissioner's commitment to make better use of technology to fight crime and is part of a nationwide roll out of the device led by the National Policing Improvement Agency [NPIA].

"This technology means increased officer time spent on patrol and helps make communities safer."

The MobileID is about the size of a mobile phone and allows police to read the fingerprint of an index finger. It checks the fingerprints with the national database but does not retain them afterwards. The device will be used in instances where an individual is suspected of committing an offence, or wanted for a previous offence.

In total, 350 devices will be deployed across the MPS over the next month including the following 12 boroughs: Lambeth, Southwark, Newham, Westminster, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Brent, Croydon, Islington, Camden, Hackney and Haringey.

Other units including the Territorial Support Group, Traffic and Safer Transport Command will also have MobileID capability.

The Metropolitan Police is one of 28 forces who took part in national trials led by the NPIA, using a similar Lantern mobile fingerprint device. The field trials reported significant benefits, including faster identification of perpetrators of crime, increased time on the frontline for police officers and improved levels of public confidence.

MPS Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: "Mobile Identification is a technological step forward that helps police officers identify people quickly.

"Evidence has shown that a full identification arrest can tie-up both the subject and the police officer for several hours. Even a traditional identity check conducted on the street can take an extended period of time to complete.

"MobileID is effective particularly in revealing serious and violent offenders who will do everything they can to prevent the police from knowing their true identities.

"This technology means there is increased officer time spent on patrol, and as a result, helps to make communities safer."

During trial, the MPS used the devices during roadside checks; the policing of the Royal Wedding and at the Notting Hill Carnival.

The device can also be used to identify people unconscious at scenes of incidents, or the deceased e.g. in cases of homicide and fatal collisions.

More recently MobileID has been used successfully to confirm identities of suspected drug dealers in the West End and individuals wanted for other crimes such as GBH.

In another case, MobileID helped to uncover a suspected female trafficking victim who had arrived at Victoria Coach Station with a large Romanian family. She was the only female out of the six male children, belonging to a middle aged couple.

Officers at the scene, who were carrying out an operation, noticed the teenage girl appeared withdrawn, disturbed and had markedly different facial characteristics to the family she was accompanying.

MobileID found the fingerprints of the father and mother and at least one of the male older children were on the database from when they were previously arrested for criminal offences. The girl had no record. This led officers to make further checks involving PNC, documentation and detailed questioning of the suspected victim. As a result of this, the teenager was taken into protective custody and the case is now being investigated by the MPS Trafficking Unit.

PS Dean Else of Westminster Borough, uses MobileID when he is on the frontline. He said: "MobileID improves the nature of our interactions with the public because it reduces the amount of time it takes to confirm an identity. At quickest it only takes thirty seconds to get a hit on the mobile device, which is efficient compared to carrying out longer traditional identity checks, often conducted back at the station. The device saves both the public and the officer's time - which ultimately means I get to spend more time patrolling the streets."

Tom McArthur, NPIA Director of Operations, said: "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."