US county in plea for AFIS renewal
06 August 2018 09:34 GMT

A property tax levy that funds a fingerprint-identification program in King County, Washington, that is utilized by regional law enforcement agencies is up for renewal on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht is urging voters to pass it, despite some criticisms from civil liberties advocates.

The levy, first established in 1986, funds the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), a regional program that serves 40 different police agencies across King County, including the Sheriff’s Office. Currently, AFIS serves as an electronic database of fingerprints that law enforcement and jail staff can use to quickly scan, upload, and cross reference prints to identify people involved in cases. Prints are collected both at crime scenes and from inmates at jails during the intake process.

At an press conference on Thursday, Aug. 2, Johanknecht called the system a “godsend to law enforcement.”

But the AFIS levy is set to expire by the end of 2018. According to Johanknecht, local law enforcement agencies will have to start sending fingerprints to the already backlogged Washington State Patrol crime forensics lab for analysis if the levy isn’t renewed, severely hampering the speed that cases can be solved.

“[AFIS] allows us to send those cases to the prosecutor and work on cutting back on those crimes and arresting those offenders. Those things wouldn’t happen if the levy doesn’t pass,” she said.

The new levy would cost property owners less than the current measure. According to the sheriff, the renewal would cost roughly three cents per $1,000 property valuation, down from last year’s roughly four cents per $1,000 valuation. The owner of a $600,000 home in King County would pay $21 for the entire year. The sheriff added that her office has been getting calls from homeowners concerned about the levy, which prompted her to call the press conference.