When one thinks of criminal investigations, the image of policemen using magnifying glasses to study fingerprints often comes to mind. Although using fingerprints to place particular individuals at the scene of the crime has been relied on for decades as being a credible form of evidence, without the use of biometrics, the process can take a significantly long period of time. Sri Lanka has almost exclusively relied on opinions of experts who study fingerprints with their naked eye at the scene of the crime.
But all of that is about to change with the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
Since as early as 1908, the Sri Lanka Police has been using fingerprints to aid its criminal investigations, and it has routinely been admissible as evidence under the Evidence Ordinance, during prosecutions. However, since the authorities relied on manually matching fingerprints at the scene of the crime with that of the suspect, using only the naked eye, this process could take several weeks. On average, an expert could take up to four weeks to submit a report to the authorities using a manual procedure. But the new AFIS developed by Theekshana, boasts of cutting down this process to just a matter of minutes.
How it Works
Theekshana, a not-for-profit company incorporated in 2006 and managed by the University of Colombo School of Computing, developed this unique system at the request of the Sri Lanka Police. The company often carries out services for the Sri Lanka Police, the Registrar General’s Department, and the Criminal Record Division of the Criminal Investigation Department.
AFIS operates on biometrics algorithms and algorithms developed by researchers at Theekshana. The system operates by matching the 10 fingers of persons or suspects in the system database with any fingerprint found at a crime scene. This process operates in such a way that it can match the print found at the crime scene with the exact print and position on the finger of a fingerprint of a suspect in the database, and therefore is 99.9% accurate, and, even better; the entire process takes only about three minutes, at most.
What’s more is that AFIS can even detect the identity of a fragment of a fingerprint or latent fingerprints, which may have been unwittingly and unintentionally placed by persons at the scene of the crime. Since latent or fragments of fingerprints are harder to extract and identify, the team at Theekshana have also developed a desktop application with a host of tools such as image optimizers, filters and enhancers to aid in image processing and bulk cropping. These editing tools can assist investigators in extracting clear images of latent or fragments of fingerprints and accurately determine who they belong to, in a significantly shorter period of time than fingerprint comparisons with the naked eye.
Theekshana is currently planning on making AFIS available to all, so that fingerprints of persons may be uploaded to the system database from almost any location. This initiative is indeed exceptionally innovative, and was even nominated as a Finalist in the prestigious Manthan Awards 2015, under the ‘E-Governance’ category.
How it Benefits Society and Law and Order
A commonly cited legal maxim is that “justice delayed is justice denied”. AFIS can decrease the time used to conduct investigations in unprecedented proportions and promise swifter justice for those who seek it. With local law enforcement across the island now rapidly moving towards digitalised fingerprint identification systems, there is no doubt that AFIS can be of significant impact in criminal investigations.
According to Mr. Chaminda Nawardhan, additional registrar of Fingerprints at the Criminal Records Division of the Sri Lanka Police, the Division would have close to 12,000 pending cases on any given day prior to AFIS, but now the Division will be capable of submitting reports on time.
It will also benefit suspects and protect against prolonged detention, as there will be no reason to keep a suspect in custody for a long period of time. Given the speed at which AFIS can determine the identity of fingerprints at a crime scene, the authorities need only upload the fingerprints of a suspect to the system database, and the question of whether the suspect ought to be held in custody further will be answered within minutes, as opposed to in four weeks under the manual procedure.
Courtesy : techadvisor.lk published on 01 February 2016