New Fingerprinting System Will Keep More Criminals In Jail

The technology to know within minutes whether Pascagoula police officers have their hands on a wanted criminal is now at their fingertips. This week the department put its new computerized fingerprinting system on line. Officers say they can now access someone's entire criminal history in a lot less time than with the old ink and paper method.

Fingerprints have a way of telling police what criminals on the run might not want them to know. However, with the ink and paper system, identification can take two to three weeks.

Now Pascagoula police can access a suspect's state arrest record in minutes. In an hour and a half, they'll know if the person they have in custody is wanted anywhere in the country.

Carla Patrick works as a property evidence technician.

"If someone has lied about their name and has previously been printed in the state of Mississippi and is already in the system, it will come back and tell us."

Under the old system, officers wouldn't know until weeks later that a print was unreadable. The live scan system rejects bad prints immediately.

Pascagoula police say this technology is similar to the National Crime Information Center only better.

"They will provide a fingerprint classification chart, but you to have someone knowledgeable in order to compare and see if it's the same person. When this transmits to the state, it takes these fingerprints and compares them to all the fingerprints in their criminal repository to see if they match."

For patrol officers like John Ledbetter, this could end the frustration of releasing suspects only to find out later they have arrest warrants.

"If we still see these people on the streets and in vehicles, we can pick them up and arrest them and take them to the proper agency in a more timely manner," Ledbetter said.

The new live scan system cost about $40,000. Pascagoula Police say the bulk of the money came from a federal grant.