Let your fingers do the work that's the plan some lawmakers have drawn up in efforts to make society safer through a national fingerprint database.
Liu Litao, 10th National People's Congress (NPC) deputy and public security bureau chief in the city of Xinyi, Jiangsu Province, proposed to build a national fingerprint database to enhance the police's performance in fighting crime.
"As a policewoman with 20 years' experience, I have intimate understanding of the importance of fingerprints in investigations," she told China Daily. "But the size of existing fingerprint databases is too limited."
Nearly every province in China now has a local fingerprint database, but they are not interlinked nationwide and the records are limited to criminal suspects and unverified fingerprints collected at the scene, according to Liu.
She also cited a recent case she handled to demonstrate the power of a fingerprint database.
On February 1, the police in Xinyi found a body off the highway in the suburb, and from the traces left on the neck, Liu and her colleagues tentatively inferred it could be a driver strangled by someone who sat behind, dumped the body and drove the vehicle to flee.
But finding out the victim's identity turned out to be tough. The Xinyi police failed to find a matching fingerprint record in the city's database and the 50,000 notices they posted in neighboring townships and villages got no response after two days.
"Almost desperate, we decided to try the provincial database," said Liu. "If that doesn't work, we'll have to spend a lot of money to put notices in newspapers."
Fortunately, the police got a matching record in the provincial database, as the victim was fingerprinted sometime for his involvement in a gambling case. After the identity was uncovered, the police soon found his workplace and the license plate number of his car. They then tracked down to two suspects in the neighboring Shandong Province on February 9, eight days after the body was found.
"It would not have been that lucky had the victim not been fingerprinted," said Liu
A national fingerprint database will save "countless money and time" in investigative jobs and thus enhance the public's security, she said. "Moreover, it would facilitate many business and public administration affairs such as banking, personal credit profiling, social security and examinations."
Liu said now would be a good time to expand the database as citizens are renewing the identity cards the government has just introduced.
But she is also aware that it would take a greater police budget as well as law revisions before every citizen can get fingerprinted.
Moreover, fingerprinting is only mandatory for criminal suspects under the law, while the police can not force citizens to be fingerprinted. It would arouse civil rights concerns to implement mandatory fingerprinting without authorization of the law, Liu said.
"I hope the national fingerprint database can be done step by step amid improvements to the law as well as the public's understanding."
(China Daily March 14, 2006)