PA Crime Commission Gets $814,000 Grant To Improve Criminal Records System

Nov 9, 2015

Only 89 percent of convicted criminals in Pennsylvania are fingerprinted. That number is up from 66 percent in 2006.
Credit West Midlands Police / Flickr

In the first quarter of this year, more than 1,500 felons in Pennsylvania did not have their criminal history entered into a state database, meaning their records would not appear on a background check.

That’s according to Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) Chairman Josh Shapiro, whose organization was just awarded a $814,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Justice to improve record-taking technology in state police stations.   

“We want to get to a near 100 percent compliance rate, and … the way in which we’ll utilize this grant will help improve our background checks here in Pennsylvania," he said. 

Shapiro said that data is simply not taken, or in some cases the police stations don't have the proper technology to record the information.  

The PCCD plans to use the grant money in part to supply 10 Pennsylvania State Police substations in six different counties with Live Scan Plus devices, which take fingerprints and input information into a statewide database. Each Live Scan Plus device costs $37,000, according to PCCD office director Bob Merwine.

“[A Live Scan Plus] is an all-in-one inclusive unit,” Merwine said. “Not only does it capture the biometrics from the fingerprint [and] the full palm but it also captures a photograph.”

In 2006, 66 percent of those convicted of a crime were fingerprinted in Pennsylvania. This year, that number stands at 89 percent, but Shapiro said there is still room for improvement.

“We’ve seen a significant improvement, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” he said.

Shapiro said that proper record-taking is vital for ensuring public safety.

“If you don’t have all the information when you’re making an important decision like whether or not to sell someone a gun, or whether or not to hire someone as a teacher, if you don’t have access to all the [criminal history] information, you can’t possibly make the best choice,” he said. “We want to empower those decision-makers … with all the necessary information so that they can make an effective decision.”