King County seeks levy renewal for fingerprint ID system

AFIS is the main database used by law enforcement for cataloging and checking fingerprints of people who end up on the wrong side of the law. - File photo
AFIS is the main database used by law enforcement for cataloging and checking fingerprints of people who end up on the wrong side of the law.
— image credit: File photo

King County Executive Dow Constantine recently brought a proposal before the county council, asking for a levy renewal for six years for the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

The proposal is intended to keep the system up-to-date with the constantly advancing criminal justice technology. If approved, the levy would continue the current property tax that county residents already pay.

"As a regional crime-fighting tool, AFIS is our 'CSI-King County,' bringing new technology to the job of cracking cases and catching criminals," said Constantine. "The AFIS program is one that historically stays under budget, and this new proposal creates $6.75 million of new efficiencies over the life of the levy."

AFIS is the main database used by law enforcement for cataloging and checking fingerprints of people who end up on the wrong side of the law.

According to the county, the levy was originally approved in 1986, and has been re-approved four times since. The proposed levy renewal rate is 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the next six years.

The county indicates this would equal approximately $20.72 per year for a home valued at $350,000. If approved, the levy renewal would generate $118.9 million to maintain current services and support current technology.

"In my previous position as Kent's police chief and now as King County Sheriff, I have seen firsthand the value of the AFIS technology in identifying criminals and helping crack cases that may otherwise never have been solved," said King County Sheriff Steve Strachan. "The AFIS program is a model for the efficiency of regional services and shared resources, and I encourage the council to support this measure."

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg voiced his support for the renewal.

"AFIS is our number-one crime-fighting tool in King County, solving more crimes than all other forensic sciences combined," he said.

According to the county, the renewal would help "replace an aging and inadequate regional processing lab and continue technology improvements started in the current levy cycle, such as fingerprinting in the courts and remote fingerprinting in the field by officers." Eleven positions would be reduced with the renewal, which is estimated to save $6.75 million over the life of the levy.

The county notes that the AFIS program historically stays under budget, which means savings for county taxpayers. It's expected that if approved, the renewal would continue that trend.

Federal Way Police Department is on board with the proposal, with spokeswoman Cathy Schrock, citing the usefulness of AFIS.

"The City of Federal Way Police Department has realized many collaborative services and equipment through the AFIS levy, contributing to effective crime fighting in our city," said Schrock. "It was significantly highlighted in the fourth quarter of 2011. The Federal Way Police Department realized a spike in residential burglaries in November 2011 of 114 percent…King County AFIS agreed to assign our department one AFIS technician daily to respond and process all residential burglaries. The service was coordinated through our 911 center. AFIS was able to equally support several South King County law enforcement agencies at the same time."

"The collection of this critical evidence will benefit multiple agencies now and in the future," Schrock added.





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