Crime & Justice

Punjab police digitise data on criminals, terrorists

By Amna Nasir Jamal

Lahore police present arrested criminal suspects and collected evidence to the media December 17. Police in Lahore have digitised the fingerprints, pictures and other details of over 250,000 criminals and militants. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

Lahore police present arrested criminal suspects and collected evidence to the media December 17. Police in Lahore have digitised the fingerprints, pictures and other details of over 250,000 criminals and militants. [Amna Nasir Jamal]

LAHORE -- Punjab Province is working to digitally record data on all criminals and terrorists to help bring perpetrators to justice, police officials told Pakistan Forward.

Police, working for months, have entered the fingerprints, pictures and other relevant details of more than 260,000 criminals into the Criminal Record Management System, Information Technology Deputy Inspector General Shahid Hanif said at a December 17 meeting of high-level police officials in Lahore.

The process of entering the remaining data is under way on a priority basis, he added.

Data on 1.2 million suspects collected

It is crucial to match the data with records stored in the Centralised Monitoring Room, as maintaining a complete criminal history of perpetrators will help bring such individuals to justice, Sukera said.

The system will be eventually linked with the courts, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and the provincial Prisons Department, he said.

"As part of our initiative to enhance crime-fighting capabilities and to create a safe and secure city, we wished to implement a system that will enable us to share real-time criminal information across police departments at both local as well as international level," he said. "It will result in improved investigation procedures and crime prevention and better tracking of criminals, suspects and accused and repeat offenders. It'll also reduce the errors caused by manually inputting information into records."

"In this system, the biometric authentication is also embedded to detect criminals through thumbprints," he said.

Police in Lahore and Punjab have been busy entering suspects' and criminals' data onto easy-to-access computer files, replacing cumbersome paper records in file cabinets.

Lahore police recently completed storing the fingerprints of 700,000 suspects nabbed during the past decade by using the Automated Fingerprint Information System (AFIS) in collaboration with the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), according to a PITB press release.

Police are expanding the project to reach the entire province, said Punjab Crime Registration Office (CRO) Superintendent of Police Omar Riaz Cheema.

"The data of 1.2 million suspects made available by the Punjab Fingerprint Bureau have been added to the system," he told Pakistan Forward. "Police have completed scanning 200,000 of the fingerprints using the AFIS."

The AFIS is software employed by the police and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to collect and segregate fingerprint samples, he explained.

The project will link all of Punjab's police departments and enable all districts to access the AFIS database for criminals' data, Cheema added.

The CRO has another plan to prepare a database of criminals' DNA samples, he said.

Controlling terrorism and tracking criminals

"The government is doing its best to control terrorism," Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Pakistan Forward.

Pakistan launched the comprehensive National Action Plan (NAP) in 2014 to fight terrorism, which includes measures to choke terror financing, he said.

"The focus of the security agencies is in nabbing terrorists," he said. "Timely and effective measures have been taken under NAP against terrorism and extremism, and we are seeing encouraging results."

The PITB is automating records at all 709 Punjab police stations in the next few months, PITB Chairman Umar Saif said. Presently, the system is fully functional in 228 police stations in Punjab.

Select PITB officials at police stations are responsible for inputting all crime data into the central database, he said, adding that the system will help increase transparency.

"The traditional approach to crime investigation is usually time consuming [...] and often generally inefficient," he told Pakistan Forward. "On the other hand, the use of computers in the management of criminal records and crime investigation tends to be very efficient because police spend less time investigating crimes with the help of automation."

Saving the police that time means "accurate and reliable investigations", he said.

"Complete criminal history records are essential to the work of judges setting bail and determining sentences as well as offering up-to-date case status to the police," said Lahore-based attorney Altaf Hussain.

"The criminal justice system has relied on fingerprints to support public safety throughout the world," he told Pakistan Forward.

That automated record-keeping system is presently in use in Karachi, Sindh Province, as well.

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