On Monday, Maharashtra became the first state in the country to adopt a digital fingerprint and iris scanning system to aid police investigations. The system, Automated Multi-modal Biometric Identification System (AMBIS), will include portable systems to dust off and capture fingerprints from crime scenes. So what does AMBIS do and how it will help the police in their investigation?
In 2015, when Indian authorities were alerted about the detention of gangster Chhota Rajan in Indonesia, the Mumbai Police rushed to put together a dossier of cases registered against him in the city. However, providing a record of his fingerprints from the 1980s would prove essential in gaining his custody, as per international protocol. Thus began a frantic search for old records at Chembur’s Tilak Nagar police station, which first yielded a photocopy of the sheet of paper on which his fingerprints were first inked. When the police eventually found the original battered document torn in three pieces, it had to be pieced together carefully and scanned before being sent to Indonesia. That’s when the need to digitise fingerprint records, numbering in crores, was felt.
In 2017, the cyber department of the Maharashtra Police selected a French firm through tendering to provide both hardware and software for a unit comprising a computer, camera, and iris, fingerprint and palm scanners. Apart from scanning and permanently storing biometric data, the police also tops files of arrested persons with their photos.
Before Monday’s formal launch, the system was trailed at a select few police stations in Mumbai, which have seen an upgrade in technological infrastructure after the CCTV project and Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS) were implemented. All the while, the cyber police department digitised over 6.5 lakh fingerprints recorded on paper from the 1950s onwards.
With Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announcing the project implementation across all 94 police stations in Mumbai, the next step is to roll it out in all 1160 police stations in the state’s 42 police districts, 7 police ranges, 10 central jails, 12 police training centers, and 4 fingerprint bureaus. With the integration of the system with facial recognition from CCTV cameras, AMBIS has enabled the police to cross-reference to put faces to criminals whose fingerprints have been captured on paper over the decades apart from solving fresh crimes.