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LAPD Fingerprint Backlog, Expert Shortage Forces Rationing Plan For Property Crimes

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles Police Department has developed a plan to get through a huge backlog of unanalyzed fingerprints caused by a shortage of fingerprint experts.

LAPD’s Latent Print Unit has failed to analyze fingerprints from about 2,200 property-related crimes and forced detectives to wait between two and three months to get print results back from the lab, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some cases have had fingerprints delayed for more than a year.

With the city’s ongoing hiring freeze, that situation is poised to get even worse. Since a hiring freeze was implemented in 2009, the unit has lost 27 of its 97 analysts, and over the next five years, 20 percent of the unit is expected to retire, the Times reported.

The dire situation has forced LAPD officials to develop a rationing plan, in which the department’s 21 police stations and specialized divisions will be allotted only 10 cases each month in which fingerprints will be analyzed promptly, according to the Times. All other cases will be placed on a waiting list.

The department plans to also train officers in the field to collect fingerprints, KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports.

“Doing fingerprints, its a real art — its an art and a science, but it takes a little while to learn how to do it,” LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said.

The rationing plan will only be applied to property-related cases and will not affect homicides, sexual assaults or other violent crimes.

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