Welsh police match fingerprint from WhatsApp image

South Wales Police have convicted a drug dealer on 11 charges based on fingerprints captured from a photograph in a WhatsApp message, the BBC reports.

An image of a hand holding ecstasy tablets was found on the mobile phone of an arrested person, and the image was sent to the scientific support unit of South Wales Police. Dave Thomas of the scientific support unit, which is a joint venture between Gwent and South Wales forces, called the use of a photograph for fingerprinting “groundbreaking,” and said officers will look closely for potential evidence on seized mobile devices.

The image showed only the middle and bottom parts of a single finger, meaning it could not be matched to databases, for which the part above the top joint is recorded. Police had a suspect based on other evidence, however.

“While the scale and quality of the photograph proved a challenge, the small bits were enough to prove he was the dealer,” said Thomas.

Thomas told the BBC that as criminals use technology to evade detection, and police must keep with new techniques, such as making use of social media messages.

“We want to be in a position where there is a burglary at 20:30, we can scan evidence and by 20:45 be waiting at the offender’s front door and arrest them arriving home with the swag,” Thomas added. “That will work through remote transmission – scanning evidence at the scene and sending it back quickly for a match. It’s the future.”

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