Improved fingerprinting system catches more criminals

May 18, 2012

Officials in King County say the adoption of a more advanced Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) a year ago has led to additional crimes being solved.

The regional AFIS is paid for through a property tax levy.  It costs the average homeowner in King County about $20 a year.

Carol Gillespie, who manages AFIS for King County, says the most significant thing about the new, improved system is that it can handle palm as well as finger prints.  30 percent of all prints found at crime scenes involve parts of the hand other than the fingers.

Gillespie says the county started seeing results almost immediately.

The most notable case to date involved the rape of a 12 year old girl in her Shoreline home last December. There was no suspect, so a forensics team went to her house.

“They were able to find a palm print on a glass top vanity in the girl’s bedroom,” she said.

They entered the print into the county system and almost immediately got a  match. 

“They hit on a 2006 arrest of a person who was arrested in Kent for driving while license suspended,” she said.

Within just three days the suspect was arrested, confessed to the crime, and now faces 27 years to life.

Without the county’s new system, Gillespie says, the man likely would not have been caught.

The levy that funds the system ends this year. This week, King County Executive Dow Constantine is expected to present his proposal for renewing the property levy.  It will likely be on the November ballot.