Release date: Mon 28 February 2011
Last updated: Thu 29 December 2016
Role and background
The role of the Fingerprint Services Group 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 Group 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.
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 Services Group was established in 1903. In 1994, the Fingerprint Unit was integrated with the State Forensic Science Laboratory to form the Victoria Forensic Science Centre.
The work carried out by the Fingerprint Unit falls into two distinct categories: office-based duties and crime scene 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. In 2016, over 10,000 fingerprint matches were made.
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 Services Group 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 Services Group 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.