THE Philippine National Police (PNP) launched on Wednesday the expanded Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), a type of biometric system that uses digital imaging to capture a fingerprint.

Chief Superintendent Theresa Cid, PNP Crime Laboratory director, said the expanded AFIS could store up to five million fingerprints from the previous one million fingerprints during its initial phase in 2004.

The first phase of AFIS, which was a donation from Japan International Cooperation Agency, now holds more than 760,000 fingerprint records.

"[The AFIS] can be used to link suspects who had committed crimes to other crimes. 'Yun po ang kagandahan ng AFIS. It takes five seconds to come up with the nominees with data close to the fingerprint of a suspect," Cid said.

Cid said the expanded AFIS, which will start operation staring Monday (June 22), is worth P270 million.

Chief Superintendent Augusto Marquez Jr., deputy chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), said the high-tech equipment can help in shortening the period of investigation for every crime as the manual cross-matching, which usually takes at least one week to establish the identity of the suspects, will be lessened.

"Before, fingerprint data would still have to be submitted here at Crime Laboratory and it was very difficult then because the fingerprints are in paper, there are smudges so they are not perfect," he said.

"By the time it (recapturing of fingerprints) was done, the suspect was already released on bail which means that case is unsolved because of the lack of evidence," he added.

Marquez said the AFIS is initially available at Camp Crame, Quezon City but there are plans to roll it out in 1,700 police stations around the country depending on availability of funds.

"So this high-tech equipment is more of increasing our crime solution and crime clearance efficiency," said Marquez.

Superintendent Ariel Ayusip, chief of the PNP Crime Laboratory Fingerprint Identification Division, said the AFIS, which also keeps other basic information about an arrested suspect and all the crimes he has committed, has already helped solve around 400 cases. (With Ma. Monica Padillo, UST intern/Sunnex)