Message from the Chief Commissioner

Fingerprint Unit

Release date: Mon 28 February 2011

Last updated: Mon 28 February 2011

Role and background

The role of the Fingerprint Unit is to maintain a database of fingerprints taken from offenders, firearms licence applicants, gaming commission applicants and other people as required.

The staff at the Unit identify offenders who have been fingerprinted previously, unknown deceased persons, accident victims, including those involved in major disasters.

The Unit also assists in the investigation of crimes by making examinations of crime scenes for latent fingerprints - a fingerprint that is not visible to the naked eye, as well as studying and identifying latent fingerprints recovered from crime scenes.

History

By the 1900s the use of fingerprints as a means of identifying people in Victoria had gradually gained acceptance as a result of numerous studies done by scientists, botanists, biologists, anatomists and police.

The Victoria Police Fingerprint Unit was established in 1903.  In 1994, the Fingerprint Unit was integrated with the State Forensic Science Laboratory to form the Victoria Forensic Science Centre.

Activities

The work carried out by the Fingerprint Unit falls into two distinct categories: office-based duties and crime scene duties.

Office-based duties

The Fingerprint Unit receives about 60,000 sets of fingerprints each year which are added to the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS). The fingerprints of any person charged with a crime throughout Australia are added to this system.

All '10 Finger' fingerprint forms (an inked set of all 10 fingerprints) received by the Fingerprint Unit are checked by name to establish whether a fingerprint form bearing the same name is already in the records.  If there is already an existing form, the two forms are compared to make sure that the fingerprints belong to the same person.  If the fingerprints on the form are not 'known by name', they are compared against others in the computer database to see if they are recorded under another name.  The Fingerprint Unit also receives fingerprint sets in an electronic format called 'Livescan' which are also processed and added to NAFIS.

Fingerprints recovered from crime scenes are processed and compared against fingerprints in the computer database to try to identify offenders.

Details of all fingerprint forms must also be recorded to satisfy legal requirements, and to make sure the process of destroying fingerprints is done correctly. Fingerprints required to be destroyed by law come under the Crime Amendments Act 1993. Fingerprints must be destroyed if a person is not charged within six months of being interviewed and having fingerprints taken, or if a person is charged and then found not guilty.

The Fingerprint Unit has a laboratory where advanced fingerprint development techniques are used for exhibits that cannot be comprehensively examined at a crime scene.

Crime scene duties

Members of the Fingerprint Unit attend a wide range of crime scenes to conduct examinations for fingerprints. These examinations are made by using various fingerprint development techniques which range from the use of powders to more advanced chemical methods.

More than 3,000 crime scenes are processed every year. Members of the Unit are required to attend various hospitals and mortuaries to fingerprint victims of crime, and to present evidence in court.


Contact us:

Fingerprint Unit
St Kilda Road Police Complex
412 St Kilda Road
Melbourne, VIC, 3004

Phone:  (03) 9865 2893
Fax:        (03) 9865 2911

Note: If you require your fingerprints taken for a police record check, contact the Public Enquiry Service on 1300 881 596 or email: publicenquiryservice@police.vic.gov.au.  To visit the Police Record Checks webpage click here.

 
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