By Jim McKay | Staff Writer
Pennsylvania criminals are feeling the heat as the state relies on technology to keep its streets safe.
Criminals in Pennsylvania are now unwilling participants in the states use of technological crime-fighting tactics. Law enforcement officials have taken the upper hand and integrated two separate technologies to create one powerful database.
The Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network (CPIN) is a computer network that extends throughout most of Pennsylvania and is used to record and store digital photos of crime suspects. The digital photos are taken at booking centers around the state and fed into a database, which contains more than 315,000 images. Photos are taken of a suspects face, tattoos, birthmarks or any other unique feature that may help accurately identify him or her.
The second technology employed by law enforcement officials is LiveScan, a system used by booking facilities to digitally record the fingerprints of arrested individuals.
Behind the Technology
Although CPIN and LiveScan are used in various agencies throughout the U.S., Pennsylvania uses the two interchangeably, thus creating a powerful tool against crime. This unique combination of systems has made it possible for police to produce a rap sheet on a suspect
immediately at the booking facility.
"The concept is to centralize regional booking centers and equip them with the latest technology," said Mike Garipoli, project coordinator of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. "What this does is enable an investigator to bring a witness right to a computer screen, and a detective can get a description of the assailant from the witness
and punch it in to the database," said Garipoli, adding that the detective enters as many features about the suspect as the witness can give and then conducts a search. "You enter the information and it will come right back with possible candidates instead of having the witness
go through mug-shot books."
"Say you come to Philadelphia and you get mugged," said Eric Radnovich of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Offender Identification Committee. "You sort of have an idea [of] what the guy looked like, so we can search those 315,000 photos quickly and come up with a descriptor."
Fingerprints are electronically scanned and sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Repository in Harrisburg. Up to eight digital photos on each individual can then be stored in a "lineup" at the repository. The photos, fingerprints and any other documentation on the suspect are immediately accessible at the booking centers.
The digital-photo system has rendered the previous storage system of files and drawers full of photos obsolete. "The paper on the photos starts to curl, the photos smudge, they turn yellow. You get away from all that with the digital-photo imaging," said Radnovich. "What we can do with photographs [today] is amazing."
Radnovich noted a recent case in which the local police had a woman in custody who was wanted in a number of places, including Canada. Police requested a photo to identify the woman, but the photo, which was faxed, was in no condition to pass the inspection of a judge, and the police were forced to release the woman. If Canada had the digital-photo system, the photo could have been accessed in minutes and the woman would have been arrested.
The Moneys in the Numbers
According to officials, about 76 percent of Pennsylvanias sheriffs departments and police stations have access to LiveScan technology. The state repository maintains 8.5 million sets of fingerprints resulting from arrests and about 8,000 sets of latent prints -- unidentified prints taken from crime scenes -- that can be used later to connect individuals to crimes. An added advantage of LiveScan is that it matches prints to other prints, not just to names. This technology has enabled