Westchester County Police Department unveils cutting-edge fingerprint technology

WESTCHESTER (WABC) -- Westchester County police unveiled new technology Thursday that enables detectives to lift latent prints from a broad range of materials that previously yielded little to no useable fingerprint evidence.

Called Vacuum Metal Deposition, it allows fingerprints to be retrieved from items such as fired ammunition, plastic bags, flexible plastic packaging, thermal paper, fabrics, wood, and paper money.

The new technology can be used in conditions that generally destroy fingerprint evidence, such as evidence on items that were submerged in water or exposed to high temperatures.

VMD technology works by coating items of evidence with an atomic layer of metal inside a vacuum chamber.

Miniscule slivers of gold, zinc, silver, or copper inserted in the VMD machine are vaporized to cover the evidence and reveal the fingerprints.

"This tremendous technology will not only enhance county police investigations, but it will also be available to assist all municipal police departments in Westchester," County Executive George Latimer said. "Obtaining VMD technology is just the latest way that the county reaffirms its commitment to support every police agency in Westchester with specialized resources and highly trained personnel at the Westchester County Police Department."

The department obtained the VMD technology from West Technology Forensics in the United Kingdom and joins a relatively small percentage of U.S. law enforcement agencies to have the latest tech.

Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said VMD would also enhance investigations into cold cases.

"Every technological advance creates an opportunity for our detectives to take a fresh look at items of evidence recovered at crime scenes years ago, even decades ago," Gleason said. "VMD technology has been shown to reveal prints from items that are more than 20 years old."

According to West Technologies, VMD technology was first developed in the 1970s by the UK Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch. However, the old systems were industrial, high maintenance and extremely expensive, resulting in only a few crime labs worldwide being able to utilize the process.

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