Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
New fingerprint system scores its first hit in the city
On March 2, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) officially began operating at the City Police Department headquarters. Funding for both the AFIS hardware and for the contracted certified Fingerprint Examiner, Auxiliary Officer Patrick Lamb, was provided by a federal grant from the Department of Criminal Justice Services. Lamb is qualified to testify in court as an expert Fingerprint Examiner through training with the FBI.
The AFIS system consists of a secure computer, a specialized scanner, and a digital camera, which capture the images preserved as latent finger or palm prints collected at a crime scene and transmits those images and their associated information to the statewide repository for print data located at the Virginia State Police office in Chesterfield. Fingerprint information will also be collected from all arrestees in the Fredericksburg region and added to the state database for compilation and comparison to evidence connected to crimes throughout the Commonwealth. AFIS terminals are currently located in the four state forensics laboratories and twenty-one other Virginia law enforcement agencies.
When a crime scene print is scanned and added to the AFIS database, the fingerprint evidence is compared against all known offenders whose prints are already in the database and against other crime scene print evidence that may yet be unidentified, thus potentially linking crimes and offenders across the entire state. When AFIS identifies a potential fingerprint match, images of the prints selected for comparison are shown in magnified scale on the AFIS monitor, allowing the Fingerprint Examiner to make the final determination of a positive hit. Fingerprint evidence no longer has to be submitted to the state lab for examination, thus saving an enormous amount of time in the investigative process.
On May 24, AFIS scored its first hit after a city resident reported a burglary at her home. Here’s the synopsis:
1000 block Dorthea Ct, 5/24 1:30 am – 6:30 am. A resident reported that she discovered her keys missing from the house and her purse and GPS stolen from her vehicle. The investigation determined that the offender had entered the home through an unlocked door and taken the keys to all three of the residents’ vehicles. The offender rummaged through all of the vehicles but only stole property from one of them. The offender then placed the keys belonging to two of the vehicles back inside the house before leaving the scene. Detectives collected fingerprint evidence and within 90 minutes, the suspect was identified as a known offender whose prints were already in the AFIS system. At 3:00 pm, Timothy Tolson, 20, of Fredericksburg was arrested at a friend’s apartment and charged with burglary, grand larceny, and three counts of tampering with a vehicle. The stolen GPS was recovered from Tolson and the stolen purse was later found in a dumpster. Tolson was incarcerated at the Rappahannock Regional Jail under no bond.
The crime occurred during the early morning hours of May 24 and within twelve hours, the offender was in custody. What can I say, we’re proud of ourselves.