Arundel police plan digital move Computer mug shots could speed work

December 31, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Police Department may soon join a growing number of law enforcement agencies trying to speed investigations by scanning computerized images of suspects.

File cabinets stuffed with mug shots may soon be relegated to dime-store detective novels if the County Council on Jan. 5 approves a $70,000 fund transfer to buy the technology.

The system would use five digital cameras at police stations to snap pictures of suspects during booking, said Sgt. William Krampf, a police spokesman.

These images would be stored on a computer system that investigators would manipulate to create preliminary "lineups" to help victims identify attackers, Krampf said.

For example, a detective could call up digital images of all white males between the ages of 50 and 90 with scars on their faces who had been arrested by the department.

"We are hoping this system will help us attain higher arrest rates on crimes because it will bring our witnesses better images to look at faster," Krampf said.

Although digitalized mug shots have been used for two years in Baltimore at the state-run Central Booking and Intake Facility on East Madison Street, police departments in Prince George's County and elsewhere still use old-fashioned systems.

Howard and Baltimore County police plan to switch to computerized mug shot systems next year, according to spokesmen for those departments.

"This is definitely the technology of the future, and a lot of police departments across the country are moving toward using it," said Lance Miller, a coordinator with the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center in Rockville, which is part of the U.S. Justice Department.

Police departments are also increasingly verifying the identities of suspects under arrest using a national database of digitalized fingerprints maintained by the FBI, Miller said.

This can cut the time required for a fingerprint check from 45 days (mailing fingerprints to the FBI) to two hours (transferring a digitalized print to the bureau via computer), said Miller.

The Boston Police Department switched to a computerized booking system in 1995 and found that its officers saved as much as four hours per arrest. This gave them more time on the street, said Officer Joe Dahlbeck.

Detectives in Boston have also been able to track down suspects more quickly and easily, said Bill Casey, deputy superintendent in the information technology division.

In one case two years ago, an elderly woman was severely beaten in South Boston by a man with a scorpion tattoo on his neck, Casey said. Investigators typed the words "scorpion tattoo" into a computer, and the database produced a picture of a man the woman recognized as her attacker.

Anne Arundel County's digital mug shot system will require the purchase of five computers and as many five digital cameras. The system could be installed as early as April, police officials said.

It will cost $127,000. The County Council will vote on appropriating part of that on Monday. The police force received PTC the remaining amount in last year's budget, county officials said.

Council Chairman Bert L. Rice said the council is likely to approve the money because it is being reimbursed by a U.S. Department of Justice grant.

"This council has been quite supportive of public safety issues in the past and I think this sounds like an effective crime-fighting system," said Rice.

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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