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Ten police forces in England and Wales are to test handheld fingerprint checking devices on the roadside.

The forces' automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) teams, who already cross check vehicle number plates against databases, will be able to verify a person's identity within five minutes without having to take them to a police station.

The Police Information Technology Organisation (Pito), which is managing the Lantern scheme, said the device could save police forces £2.2m a year in resources wasted pursuing false identities. Around 60 per cent of drivers stopped give a false identity, according to Pito.

The device works by electronically scanning the person's index finger. The scan is then sent using encrypted wireless transmissions to the National Automated Fingerprint System (IDENT1), which currently holds 6.5 million prints.

A Pito spokesperson told GC News: "People will have to give their consent and the fingerprints will only be stored onto a mobile device until it is full, which is at around 100 fingerprints.

"The fingerprints will not be stored onto the national database. However, the device gives the police more visibility and makes them more efficient."

Barry Taylor, Dyfed-Powys Police deputy chief constable and senior responsible owner for Lantern, said: "Lantern is a powerful tool in that it allows an officer to make better informed decisions about how to proceed at the point of interaction with an unknown person they suspect of committing an offence."

The police forces taking part in the pilot are Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, North Wales, Northamptonshire, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, the Metropolitan Police Service, and British Transport Police.

The pilot is due to end in December 2007.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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