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Forensic fingerprint experts talk

The delegation of regional fingerprint experts from various police forces in southern Africa, met in Windhoek this week. (Photograph by Hilma Hashange)

The delegation of regional fingerprint experts from various police forces in southern Africa, met in Windhoek this week. (Photograph by Hilma Hashange)

The Namibian Police Force played host to the first working group meeting for regional fingerprint experts from the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO).  The three day meeting which is organised by the INTERPOL Regional Bureau in Harare, started on Wednesday at the Polytechnic Hotel School.
The objectives of the 3-day meeting is to provide a forum for facilitating co-operation, enhancing networking and assistance amongst SARPCCO member countries and also share best practices and contemporary techniques on fingerprint lifting, examination and uploading of subjects into the  INTERPOL data base.
In his speech read by Commissioner Sibolile, Inspector General of the Namibian Police Force, Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga said the meeting is a clear testimony that the Namibian Police Force is committed to the common quest for a peaceful society. “The importance accorded to the hosting of this event eloquently testifies the significance that INTERPOL attaches to the capacity building of our regional fingerprint experts,” he said.
Ndeitunga added that the fact that fingerprinting is one of the most important forensic tools in the investigation of crime, makes it imperative for SARPCCO member countries to have qualified fingerprint experts who would be able to use this tool without difficulty to identify offenders through fingerprints.
Currently Namibia has two departments that deal with crime, the Criminal Records Centre, which solely deals with records of crime and the Scene of Crime Office, which is responsible for investigating crime scenes and gather forensic evidence. Inspector Catherine Araes, a senior fingerprint expert at the Namibian Police said that Namibia is faced with challenges when it comes to solving crimes. Using fingerprinting as a tool to solve crime was beneficial to society as finger prints are considered to be very reliable and their evidence is indisputable, according to Araes.
Inspector Araes said although Namibia still uses the manual system, it is in the process of planning to upgrade to the computerised system. She said that a few police officers were sent to India to be trained as fingerprint experts and taught how to enter data sets into INTEPOL’s data base system. According to Inspector Araes, most high crimes in the country are solved using the fingerprinting system.
According to INTERPOL’s fact sheet, fingerprint evidence plays a crucial role in criminal investigations. Since a person’s fingerprints are unique and do not change during the course of their life, they can be used to quickly and efficiently confirm or disprove a person’s identity, for example, in checking a suspect at a border crossing.
In addition, finger marks can be collected at a crime scene and have the potential to link a series of crimes together, or to place a suspect at the scene. Fingerprints play an equally important role in  identifying victims when their bodies are mutulated so extensively that other forms of identification fail.

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