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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Thousands of criminal suspects not being fingerprinted by PA police

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 1, 2014 2:28 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, July 2, 2014:

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Obtaining the fingerprints of suspected criminals would seem to be one of the basics of police work. 

But according to an investigative report by PublicSource, thousands of suspects aren't being fingerprinted in Pennsylvania and it is having real consequences later.

PublicSource reporter Jeffrey Benzing's investigation found that 30,000 suspected criminals whose charges include sex crimes, assaults and murder were not fingerprinted by Pennsylvania police officers in 2013.

As Benzing reports, without a fingerprint, a defendant has no criminal history.  That can mean their name doesn't show up when charged with another crime, in a background check when buying a gun or if charged with a sex offense against children -- it doesn't come up when that person is applying for a coaching or teaching position.

How widespread is the problem?

About 13% of suspects weren't fingerprinted statewide last year.  But in Luzerne County, more than 42% weren't fingerprinted or almost 38% in Northumberland County.

PublicSource reporter Jeffrey Benzing appears on Wednesday's Smart Talk along with Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association.

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David Freed, Cumberland County District Attorney and President of the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-07-02 08:30

    Marvin emails:

    In the case where someone is charged and not convicted, or if someone is charged and the charges are dropped, are the collected fingerprints expunged from the database?

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-07-02 09:06

    From the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee...
    The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on Pennsylvania's fingerprint reporting. This hearing will focus on the state's procedures to ensure that high-quality fingerprints are taken of all those who are arrested to make sure of proper identification. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 23 at 10 a.m. 140 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-07-03 07:26

    Alex from Texas asked...
    In terms of allocation of funds, was it found that money was spent extraneously by police departments instead of investing in this type of technology? Coming from a city where our police have lots of...extra toys, I'd be interested to know if all of these departments are legitimately strapped for cash.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-07-03 07:27

    Hal inquires...
    A few years ago, my daughter's daycare had fingerprint access to their facility.
    The fingerprint technology there could not have been expensive.

    Why can't smaller police departments use similar inexpensive technology.

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