Westchester County Police Add Cutting-Edge Fingerprint Technology

Westchester County Police unveiled new technology that enables it to lift fingerprints from a wide range of materials that previously yielded little to no useable fingerprint evidence.

Some of the items the system can pick up fingerprints from.
Some of the items the system can pick up fingerprints from. Photo Credit: Westchester County Police Department

Known as vacuum metal deposition (VMD), the technology allows detectives to retrieve fingerprints from multiple items including fired ammunition, plastic bags, flexible plastic packaging, thermal paper, fabrics, wood, and paper money.

The VMD technology is also successful at obtaining fingerprint evidence from items that were submerged in water or exposed to high temperatures – conditions that generally destroy fingerprint evidence, the department said.

“This tremendous technology will not only enhance County Police investigations, 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 WCPD.”

The technology, which is only used by a small percentage of agencies, was purchased from West Technology Forensics in the United Kingdom. 

The system will also help investigators working cold cases, said Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason.

“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."

The 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 fingerprints and other evidence.

It can process items as small as a single shell casing or a slip of thermal paper to larger items such as firearms, large garbage bags or articles of clothing, the department said.

Latent Prints is just one area of expertise maintained by FIU detectives. In addition, FIU provides expert analysis and testimony in the forensic disciplines of ballistics, crime scene, and digital evidence.

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