A single thumbprint, found in a burned-out car, led authorities to the four suspects who are now accused of kidnaping and killing two Los Angeles college students. That thumbprint, the result of an adjustment made to a rear-view mirror, would have led nowhere without the help of sophisticated, expensive technology.
The new computerized fingerprint-matching system at the California Department of Justice is not yet fully operational but it quickly matched the thumbprint with one of 300,000 on file. The same system, the Cal-ID, took minutes to identify a suspect in connection with the Night Stalker cases--the first time it was ever used.
In Orange County, the sheriff's department already uses a fingerprint identification computer system under a lease arrangement. Now other police forces, including the Los Angeles Police Department, are clamoring for systems of their own although when the last Los Angeles city budget was written, the fingerprint computer had a low priority, seventh on the LAPD's list behind competing needs such as more police officers and new squad cars.
Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates is joining Councilmen Zev Yaroslavsky and Hal Bernson in urging the city to buy a system programmed for Los Angeles at a cost of $6 million. Two committees of the Los Angeles City Council are scheduled to meet jointly Friday to consider how best to finance the purchase. That is a solid start despite fears that the city will face budget cuts next year.