Morrow police to fight crime with fingerprint scanners

Criminals may not want to let their fingers do the walking for them anymore — at least not in Morrow.

Those people who break the law soon will not be able to use fake names that belong to famous people, such as Carlos Santana, or fictitious beings, including “Amanda Huggenkiss,” when they are arrested in the City of Morrow. That’s because their fingerprints will give them away.

Morrow’s city council unanimously approved the purchase of five cell phone-sized Rapid ID, mobile biometric fingerprint scanners. The scanners will allow police to “very quickly” confirm a suspected criminal’s identity, simply by having the individual place his, or her, thumb on the device’s small touch-screen, according to Interim Morrow Police Chief Greg Tatroe.

“A lot of the people we deal with, out here on the streets, for some reason, don’t carry ID cards with them, so they lie to us, and give us everything under the sun, except their true name,” Tatroe said. “By putting their thumb on this device, just within a matter of seconds, it will tell us who they are — if they’ve ever been fingerprinted in the United States.”

The interim police chief said he does not expect the devices to be in use by his department until early 2012. He said he cannot place the order for the scanners until he gets the city council’s permission to do so.

“I’m not anticipating making the purchase until next week,” said the police chief, who added that he hopes the devices will arrive at the beginning of January. “We have to send the officers to [get] some additional training to use it, so it’s not going to be a plug it in, and go [situation].”

Four scanners will be used by the police department’s Uniform Patrol Division, and the other one will be used by its Criminal Investigations Division, according to Tatroe. It will have access to fingerprint information provided through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Mobile Biometric Fingerprint Identification System.

The cost of the scanners is estimated at just over $21,000. The city is slated to use a $21,250.52 federal homeland security grant to buy the scanners. Tatroe said the grant program is set up so the city purchases the scanners, and is then reimbursed for the purchase — up to the total grant amount — by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).

“We originally planned on trying to purchase seven, but we failed to realize that we had to buy data packages for these ... so, we had to knock it down to five, from seven,” Tatroe said.

The police department received notification, from the GBI, that it had been approved to receive the grant last summer, according to a letter sent to the department, by the GBI, on July 15.

The city will have to pay an additional $132.88 out of forfeiture funds the department has received from the state, to cover the remainder of the purchase cost, according to the interim police chief. Essentially, according to city officials, with the grant available to use on the purchase, it will be as if Morrow paid only $132.88, to get five fingerprint scanners.

“So, it’s a pretty good win-win for us, but we have to make the initial purchase,” Tatroe said.

Morrow Police Capt. James Callaway, commander of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, explained in a Nov. 29 e-mail to Tatroe’s administrative assistant, that there will be a recurring annual charge of $4,688.40 for data packs for the scanners. “We have plans to figure that into [the] 2012/2013 ... budget,” Callaway wrote in the e-mail.

As for the issue of someone potentially not having fingerprints on file in the United States, Tatroe did not appear too concerned.

“A majority of us have [been fingerprinted],” the interim police chief said. “There are some who have not been fingerprinted, but this device will help us determine that.”