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The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has rolled out mobile devices that allow the police to scan a person's fingerprints and check them against information from the national fingerprint database for verification.
Known as Mobile Identification (MobileID), the technology helps police to identify individuals more quickly. The NPIA also hopes that it will save the public and police officers time as well as increasing the number of offenders who are identified.
The full deployment of the devices follows trials, which involved 28 police forces using technology developed under the Lantern programme to test how mobile fingerprinting performs in an operational environment. The agency said that feedback from the field trials helped it to manage the development of a smaller, hand-held national device for use by all forces.
More than half the forces in England and Wales including Sussex and Surrey have already received the new devices this year. This has helped to cut the number of trips made back to the police station, according the NPIA.
Tim Arthur, director of operations at the NPIA, 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."
Peter Goodman, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on MobileID, said: "One of the most powerful weapons criminals have is their ability to hide their true identity. With the advent of MobileID, this will become much more difficult, making our communities that much safer."
The MobileID project is part of the Information Systems Improvement Strategy (ISIS), a reform programme for the police service that uses IT to improve efficiency.