Monday, September 21, 2020

Botswana criminal investigation finally jumps the digital divide

Tracking down repeat criminals will now take Botswana Police a few hours of clicking on the computer keyboard rather than days rummaging through manual files ÔÇô thanks to a technological revolution in Botswana’s fight against crime that was unveiled this week.

The long awaited Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which will enhance the swift tracking of criminals by the police, will be supplied by a South African-based French company, Sagem Defense Security.

This follows the conclusion of a P30 million contract agreement between the Commissioner of Police, Thebeyame Tsimako, and Sagem South Africa Managing Director, Philleppe Compagnon.

Currently, Botswana police investigating officer have to plumb vaults of paper files for days or even weeks when searching for criminal records.
The AFIS will put an end to the exhausting and time-consuming manual process that has been in use since 1936.

“AFIS is the most technically advanced system of its kind with the capability to use both fingerprints and palm prints to identify criminals,” said Compagnon.

Kenny Kapinga, Deputy Commissioner of the Botswana Police Services, stated that currently there are 2600 cases of prisoners who filed applications for pardon which are under consideration.

He said that for an effective evaluation of the varied circumstances of their applications and in order to determine whether or not they should be pardoned, it becomes necessary to go through their criminal histories.

With the newly acquired state of the art system in place, he said, work will certainly be much easier for the authorities.

The AFIS project is scheduled to commence within the next two weeks and will be piloted at 17 police stations that are deemed to be the busiest, including two Police stations each in Gaborone and Francistown.

Tsimako said that with about 600 000 finger prints in manual records at various centers around the country, the implementation of the system will remarkably improve the production of criminal fingerprint records and the electronic capturing of crime scene marks.

Furthermore, he pointed out, the AFIS will be helpful in civil enquiry fingerprints with a vast search capability, such that it will easily access the records of students who are to study abroad, people who want to purchase fire arms, those that want to join the army or police, and possible tourism employees and applicants for citizenship.

The Commissioner could not conceal his excitement.
“The new system will bring about a new phase of technological development and advancement in criminal scientific investigations.”

He, however, pointed out that the transition from manual to automated fingerprint identification will take fifteen months from now, and that service delivery will be slow at the initial stage of use.
Explaining the delay, he indicated that it will be due to the processes involved in the converting of records from manual to software. There will also be the issue of the training of staff and the actual installation of the requisite hardware.

A Project Board that will be working with the supplying company has already been constituted to oversee the smooth running of the project, and that the contract is given effect within the envisaged 2 year contract period.

Sagem Defense Security (SA), which has partnered with 2 local companies, Systems Information Technology (SIT) and Southern Business Solutions (SBS), promised to make this project a success, and said that this new system will help curb crime in Botswana.

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