King County voters to decide on funds for fingerprint services

July 23, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 4:30 p.m. July 23, 2012

King County leaders put a measure on the November ballot to raise dollars for regional police fingerprint identification services.

The proposal is to fund operations and expansion in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, in operation through 2018. The system provides criminal fingerprint identification services to law enforcement agencies throughout the county, including the Issaquah Police Department.

The proposed renewal levy rate is 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $20.72 per year for a $350,000 home. The measure is expected to generate about $119 million overall through property tax revenue.

In a unanimous decision Monday, King County Council members agreed to place the measure on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The fingerprint system is managed by the King County Sheriff’s Office and provides services to county and local law enforcement agencies in King County. Investigators use the AFIS database to match fingerprints and palmprints to criminal suspects.

“For 24 years, our AFIS lab and staff have been providing crime-solving tools for use by all of our local law enforcement agencies,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert — Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee chairwoman and the Issaquah representative — said in a statement. “This regional approach allows sharing of these specialized technologies and identification services among the county’s 39 cities.”

In 2011, Issaquah police used AFIS resources more than 2,100 times to help identify inmates at the Issaquah City Jail. City corrections officers use information from AFIS to determine if a jail inmate is evading a warrant, hiding a criminal record or using a false identity.

Voters approved the initial AFIS levy in 1986, and overwhelmingly renewed the levy since then, most recently in 2006. The current levy expires in December.

Officials intend to use funds raised in the AFIS levy renewal to maintain current operations and create funding reserves to replace the service’s aging laboratory and adopt handheld wireless devices to allow officers in the field to scan suspects’ fingerprints.

The current levy included plans for initiatives to conduct a mobile fingerprinting capture project and conduct a feasibility study. The effort is nearing completion. The proposed levy could generate reserves to provide funding to continue and expand the initiatives if the proposed levy passes.

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