The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously approved sending to the voters a November ballot measure funding the continued operation and expansion of King County’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the program that matches suspects to crimes through fingerprint identification technology.
AFIS, which is managed by the King County Sheriff, provides services to all local and county jurisdictions, the Seattle Police Department and all suburban Police Departments. AFIS uses a computerized system to store fingerprints and palmprints that can be accessed by law enforcement for solving crimes and identifying criminals.
“For 24 years, our AFIS lab and staff have been providing crime-solving tools for use by all of our local law enforcement agencies,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “This regional approach allows sharing of these specialized technologies and identification services among the county’s 39 cities.”
The AFIS levy has allowed the county to establish systems and the technology to collect, search, and store fingerprints and palmprints in an electronic database. This database helps identify arrested individuals using fingerprints, solve crimes by identifying prints left at crime scenes, and establish and maintain criminal history. AFIS assists in the apprehension of criminal suspects and confirming the identity of individuals who are detained or booked into jail.
King County voters have approved levies to support AFIS programming in 1986, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2006.
“Over the last generation, County voters have had the final word on the value of the AFIS program,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett “With today’s unanimous vote, once again we turn to the residents of the County to decide to see if they want to maintain this service.”
“Voters in November will determine whether to continue funding the regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which assists law enforcement officers in identifying crime suspects through an electronic database of finger and palm prints,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips.
The levy that will be sent to the voters would establish a levy rate of 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a six–year period starting in 2013. If adopted, the levy is estimated to raise $20 million a year for the AFIS program, at a cost of approximately $20.72 a year for the owner of a $350,000 home. The funds raised by the AFIS levy will be used for maintaining current operations, as well as creating reserve funds to be used for:
- AFIS Lab Replacement: In order to maintain industry standards and maximize staff efficiency, the AFIS lab is developing plans for the construction of a new facility. If adopted proceeds from the levy would go toward the development of new facilities
- Remote Fingerprint Capture (Mobile Fingerprinting): Mobile ID allows officers in the field to perform an AFIS search using a handheld wireless device. The officer can then make a fast and informed decision to book or to release a subject while remaining on patrol. The expiring levy included plans for initiatives to conduct a Mobile ID pilot project and conduct a Court ID feasibility study. These projects are currently near completion. The proposed levy would include reserves to provide funding to continue and expand these initiatives into the next levy period.
The AFIS levy will appear on the November 6 general election ballot.