The recently installed Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is proving to be a useful tool for St Kitts & Nevis in securing justice for victims of crime.

Police sources told SKNIS that since AFIS was employed last month, a positive match has been made which links an individual to a crime that is currently being investigated.

Lt. Ancil Alexander is heading up forensics in SKN’s police force

The introduction of AFIS comes as the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force continues to modernize operations and upgrade forensic capabilities. Lieutenant Ancil Alexander oversees the police’s forensic team. He explained how the system works.

Prior to the AFIS everything was done manually,” he said, noting that comparing fingerprints from a crime scene was challenging as it relied on searching through a large file and comparing each set of prints with the newly acquired one. This can be quite time consuming.

When we go to a scene now and we lift latent prints, we can [now] come back to the AFIS, enter that latent in the system and if that person is in the system, it will pick that person up,” Lt. Alexander added.

AFIS is used by a number of countries in the Caribbean region and is also popular with international law enforcement agencies. This allows for a wider integrated database of finger and palm prints that can be accessed by security forces anywhere in the world.

“Presently we are linked with Antigua, so we have the capability of searching their files and they have the capability of checking our files as well,” the police official revealed. “The other countries that I believe should be in the system soon are St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.”

Before any cross inter-island agency check is facilitated, officials will have to submit a request to the respective authority seeking permission to access the files. If this is allowed, the investigator can begin the search and have an answer minutes later.

AFIS was acquired from and installed by 3M Cogent, an American-based firm which according to its website “has delivered the fastest, most accurate, and most sophisticated yet reliable biometric identification solutions in the world.” The United States Government through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) assisted St. Kitts and Nevis’ introduction of AFIS.

A team from 3M Cogent trained local personnel from the Police’s Criminal Records Office (CRO) as well as Crime Scene Technicians on the use of the system. Lieutenant Alexander revealed that there will be ongoing training on AFIS as well as the introduction of new technology for forensics. One such programme is the Computerised Criminal History Jacket.

“When a person is arrested in the Federation several times we [wouldn’t] have to look at individual jackets,” stressed Lt. Alexander. “Those records will be consolidated and … if a person comes for a certificate of character it’s easier to say that John Doe has committed several offenses.”

These upgrades are in line with the plan to make the Force’s operations more efficient.

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