SA fingerprinting breakthrough


Groundbreaking  forensic technology is set to revolutionise criminal investigations globally and ensure the proper conviction of suspects.

At the unveiling in Pretoria yesterday at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, South African researchers revealed a prototype fingerprint-sensing device.

For decades the police, especially their forensic investigators, have drawn criticism from the judiciary over shoddy evidence collection.

The new technology, the first of its kind in Africa, will be linked to the police and home affairs fingerprint databases.

Through the use of lasers, it will process fingerprints taken from crime scenes and from people in under three seconds.

Researchers are now hard at work to make the device portable – to reduce the size to that of a computer tablet.

It is currently the size of an oversized shoe box and can be fitted to a police forensic vehicle.

The device is designed to read finger prints from both suspects and crime scenes.

Launching the device, co-designer Ameeth Sharman said that in their initial design, the technology had been geared towards the collection of “live” fingerprints[obtaining finger prints from people].“It was during this research that we realized the potential it carried for obtaining ‘latent’ fingerprints[fingerprints off surfaces such as metal and glass].”

He said in live fingerprinting, the device took 3D images of the finger tip and mapped the fingerprint.

Sharman said with the current dusting-for-fingerprints method potential DNA evidence could be destroyed, especially where the finger prints were left in blood on a crime  scene.

Co-developer Luke Darlow, who focused on the live finger printing research, said the technology had been developed from medical dermatology scanning techniques.

“The techniques we developed show that every person has two identical finger prints, one on the skin’s surface, the other just millimetres below,” he said.

“Often skin diseases or injuries damage the surface fingerprint permanently.


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