Louisiana launches digital justice system

Louisiana this week said it had launched a statewide digital justice system that integrates live-scan fingerprints, an automated fingerprint identification system, digitized mugshots and computerized criminal histories (CCH). The system can return a criminal's true identity just 20 to 30 minutes after booking.

The Louisiana State Police have had an AFIS system since 1987. However, that system used "ink-and-roll" print cards that had to be manually scanned. In some cases, Louisiana was a year behind in updating criminals' records. "This system has brought us from the dark ages," said Gwen Brashear, a fingerprint technician/supervisor with the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification.

Now, each of the state's 64 parishes have at least one live-scan unit plugged into the statewide system. Louisiana has almost 100 live-scan units statewide.

Louisiana has divided itself into zones to process identification requests. Each zone is served by one of six full-function sites. At those sites, operators look to be sure fingerprints are of AFIS quality. Once the quality control check is performed, the operator runs a search of the AFIS system.

Louisiana's AFIS has almost 900,000 sets of prints. Because not every criminal has an AFIS file, descriptive booking information is also transmitted. The system searches through almost 2 million CCH files to make identification. If identification is made, officers at the booking station will be able to bring up the criminal's rap sheet. More than 3,000 live-scan transactions are possible each day.

Louisiana also has set up 10 stations to perform searches of latent prints, or fingerprints acquired at crime scenes. Each time someone is arrested, their information is searched against the latent prints. Brashear said this information was not available years ago. And the benefits go beyond fingerprints. "With the click of a mouse, we can build a lineup," he said.

The Louisiana system was designed by Printrak International Inc., IBM Corp. and Unisys Corp., in a $10 million contract. IBM was tapped for document archive and network equipment, while Unisys worked to interface Printrak's AFIS with Louisiana's existing CCH system.

"This system is much more efficient," said Dan Driscoll, president of Printrak's Digital Justice Division. "More police can spend more time on the streets instead of standing around trying to figure out who they have."

-- Joshua Dean (joshua_dean@fcw.com)

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