Nelson Mandela Bay police are now able to carry out on-the-spot fingerprinting in the street.
They have been armed with a device that can scan fingerprints as well as identify stolen vehicles, cellphones and firearms.
Already, the MaxID, a hi-tech portable identification device, has led to the arrest of several wanted suspects. Some of the suspects were even wanted in other provinces.
The MaxID is also used by the US Department of Defence and Homeland Security.
Specialist branches such as the gang unit, vehicle theft unit and crime intelligence divisions are using the devices.
The MaxID puts information at the fingertips of the officers on the ground, police spokeswoman Sandra Janse van Rensburg said.
“Crime displacement sees criminals move across provincial borders, making it difficult to track wanted suspects.
“This device simply allows us to ascertain on the spot if the person is on the run.”
“Once the suspect’s fingerprints are run through the database, the machine instantly alerts us if the suspect is on the run.”
Initially, problems with mobile connectivity rendered the devices useless. But the problems have been sorted out.
Provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills declined to disclose how many units were in the province.
However, the 2013-2014 South African Police Service annual report showed the MaxID terminals had been sent to 934 stations countrywide with 115 allocated to the Eastern Cape. “[But] I can confirm that the Eastern Cape received a number of these devices last year and it was distributed to all clusters in the province including Mount Road, Motherwell and Uitenhage,” Mills said.
The user-friendly device can be charged in a vehicle or from a laptop.
“This is one of many ways the police are making use of the latest technology to practically assist officers on the ground and expand our crime-fighting capabilities,” she said.
Institute for Security Studies researcher and former police general Dr Johan Burger welcomed the news.
“Any tool used in the fight against crime has to be welcomed with open arms. It remains vital for our police to keep up to date with the latest technological crime-fighting tools.”