NSW police put finger on crime

NSW police will use biometric technology to verify the attendance of bailees at police stations, beginning next week.

Four stations will implement the Automatic Bail Reporting System (ABRS) which consists of a bioscan device (to be bolted to a wall) and an Epson thermal printer for printing confirmation receipts. The technology will be piloted for a month at the inner city station of Kings Cross as well as stations in the outer Sydney suburbs of Campbelltown, Macquarie Fields and Mount Druitt, before being rolled out state-wide.

NSW police already use Livescan technology, developed by Sagem in France, to digitise fingerprints of suspects and compare them against a national database. ABRS scans fingerprints to generate templates of the prints, said project manager Andrew Godman.

The templates are the saved ‘fingerprint’ that bailees must match on later visits.

“This is a more modern fingerprint device [than Livescan], though it’s not as sophisticated as Livescan. Livescan can compare parts of fingerprints, this [ABRS] is an attendance system,” he said.

Bailees will place their fingers on the bioscan device, which sends radio waves to the skin’s epidermis. A frequency sensor reads the radio waves to determine the distance and shape of the layers of the skin’s epidermis. The device then translates this data into an algorithm of 110 characters that forms a template of the fingerprint.

Around 190 bailees check in at Campbelltown station every day, according to Godman.

Each bailee will initially have three fingers scanned. On subsequent visits to the police station, the bailee’s fingerprint scan must match one of those templates in order for a receipt to be issued. If it does not, the bailee will undergo a re-enrolment identification process.

Godman said the previous bailee attendance system was computerised, but still card-based and not connected with online systems.

“It was very proprietary so it wasn’t very user friendly. We also had our support [for the system] from New Zealand. Then as of last year we decided authentication was the key to improvement. We saw some of the technologies around like iris and fingerprint [scanning] and decided fingerprint was the best for us.”

The need for readily available support helped influence the choice of local Australian businesses for development. The ABRS application was written by Aspect Computing and the bioscan hardware was supplied by Business Risk Services.

“This system is also online with our central systems, it’s integrated with our databases on a persons’ other details to give real-time access to that information. This provides bail information to intelligence and prosecutors immediately,” said Godman.

While Godman acknowledged current privacy concerns with biometrics, he said policies were in place to delete templates once a person’s bail period was over.

“The interesting thing about this system is it will change who has the onus of proof,” he said.

Previously, it was the responsibility of the police to prove whether a bailee had attended the station. The new system will change this by providing bailees with a receipt to confirm their attendance.

Godman declined to comment on the cost of the system.

The ABRS is part of the NSW police’s iCOPS strategy, improving connectivity for police in NSW.