The Los Angeles Police Department identified a suspect in the burglary and beating of Secretary of State March Fong Eu with the help of Cal-ID, the state's computerized fingerprint-matching system. Anaheim police recently used the same system to track down a suspect in a nine-year-old murder case, and San Diego police used it to find a suspect in a series of rapes. In all, 1,100 suspects have been identified by the $22-million system--enough to judge it a sound public investment.
The California Department of Justice's system can compare a single fingerprint taken from a crime scene against prints of 1.1 million persons convicted or arrested on felony and serious misdemeanor charges--a task that almost defies being done by hand.
Local authorities now send fingerprints to Sacramento, which gets 300 to 400 queries per day. To make access faster, the state is paying 70% of the costs of regional systems, which will allow matches against prints taken at the time of local arrests before querying Sacramento. A Los Angeles County regional system is scheduled to go on line Wednesday. A system operated by the Los Angeles Police Department should start up in January.
At a time of concern over public safety, the computer that can read fingerprints is living up to its advance notices. It is good to see technology that works for a change--especially technology that can make a big contribution to holding down the crime rate in California.