Pinellas sheriff upgrades fingerprint analysis

CLEARWATER — Thanks to federal grant dollars, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has modernized the way it analyzes fingerprints found at crime scenes.

Monday, a handful of staffers showed off their new high-tech tool for matching fingerprints, which are often used as evidence in criminal investigations. It’s a far cry from the old method they were using prior to August, and they hope the more advanced methods will help them catch more criminals.

“Our job is to answer questions, match things up, and provide investigators leads,” said Bill Schade, the sheriff’s office’s fingerprints records manager. “It means that our evidence is going to be more solid. It means that when I deduce results, then I can document those properly. I have very solid evidence.”

Like the old system, an analyst can compare a photograph of a print collected from the scene to one already on file. But the new equipment, valued at nearly $35,000, uses high-resolution imagery and powerful processing software to more accurately identify prints in even the toughest spots, such as areas with extensive dust and debris.

High-end cameras with a light source that allows them to view the images under different kinds of light and different lens filters help to clarify certain images. The system’s 24-inch touchscreen monitor dwarfs the old system’s 14-inch TV screen monitor, which had little capacity beyond zooming in and out.

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