Fingerprint evidence folly

British politician William Gladstone said,

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Translated locally, it means that the weeks-long turnaround time
for processing some fingerprints at the San Jose Police Department
lab is unacceptable and must change.
British politician William Gladstone said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Translated locally, it means that the weeks-long turnaround time for processing some fingerprints at the San Jose Police Department lab is unacceptable and must change.

When a criminal leaves behind information that can help to make a positive identification, it behooves the authorities to do that as quickly as possible. They need to make sure criminals have little opportunity to repeat their crimes, to widen their path of destruction, to increase the number of victims.

Crimes are ranked, with bodily injury crimes rightfully receiving higher priority than property crimes, at the fingerprint processing lab. But in a retail center like Gilroy, property crimes are a major concern.

A five- or six-week wait on burglary fingerprints is simply not the kind of public safety response Gilroyans should have to tolerate. A criminal emboldened by a successful burglary is likely to commit more crimes and will possibly move on to ever more serious crimes.

In the case of burglaries, the likelihood of recovering stolen property drops dramatically the longer it takes to apprehend the perpetrator.

A couple of possible solutions to this problem occur to us:

• Partnering with other small towns who are dependent upon the San Jose Police Department and financing a fingerprint processing lab at the county crime lab, thus avoiding the backlog at SJPD’s lab.

• Creating a fingerprint processing lab at the Gilroy Police Department and offering the services to other small-town police departments in the region, thus offsetting the cost and justifying the expense such a lab would entail.

We’re sure there are other ways to address the issue. We urge the City Council to summon police department administrators for a public discussion on the matter.

Gilroyans have been told that one of the trade-offs for enduring the traffic and, some say, ugliness of mass retail development is that the sales tax revenue allows the city to afford excellent public safety services.

City leaders must keep up their end of that bargain with Gilroy taxpayers by finding a way to dramatically reduce fingerprint processing time.

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