HOMER – The Banks County Sheriff’s Office is one of the first in the region to roll out the state-of-the-art New Generation Identification (NGI) System.
“The system provides out agency with the world’s largest and most efficient electronic source of biometric and criminal history information,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Carissa McFaddin.
That may not mean a lot to someone not involved in investigations.
“To bring it into a basic explanation, during our criminal investigations we collect evidence to include fingerprints and palm prints,” McFaddin said. “With this enhanced technology, we now have a resource that can compare that evidence to not only a state database, but also a national catalog of identifiers.”
The computer system is capable of searching finger and palm prints from across the nation providing results within minutes. Until recently, the sheriff's office, like many other small agencies, had to rely on sending the prints to the state or federal crime labs. Results could take weeks, if not months, to compare due to the backlog.
"We strive to provide our citizens with progressive and technologically-advanced services,” said Sheriff Carlton Speed. “Just because we are a rural agency, our citizens do not expect or deserve us to be behind the times."
As soon as Banks County Sheriff’s Office received the technology, Investigative Analyst Katrina Willis began utilizing it.
Through her processing, Willis confidently has reported NGI is proving its successfulness. Two cold case arrests have been made and several leads have been opened due to the new technology.
“In addition to solving Banks County cases, we are providing assistance to fellow jurisdictions by helping to resolve their own outstanding files.” Willis said. “We are encouraging other agencies to contact us in identifying any unresolved fingerprint identifications. We look forward to increasing victories not only in criminal investigations but also in partnerships with surrounding agencies.”
Willis previously was employed as a crime scene technician in Cobb County and retired from Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office as the crime scene unit supervisor before coming to Banks County. In the past 20 years, Willis has worked more than 200 death investigations, 3,200 general investigations, and has analyzed and completed more than 32,500 latent print comparisons.
Willis’ other duties include criminal analysis, evidence custodian and crime scene technician. Among her many career and educational accomplishments, Willis has served as a professor of forensic science at Piedmont College, past president of Georgia Division of International Association for Identification and attended educational seminars at the University of Tennessee Body Farm. She and her husband, Bruce, currently own and operate a forensic consulting firm.
In order to ensure that the agency is utilizing this new program to its full potential, Banks County Sheriff’s Office has started the process of training a patrol deputy from each shift.
Those deputies have been specifically selected to attend a crime scene processing class. In the class, deputies receive advance instruction in processing, documenting, and collecting items from crime scenes which will assist investigators and Willis in identifying criminals.
Speed has plans to offer the class to Alto, Baldwin and Maysville police departments while providing each participant or agency with a crime scene kit.
“Their crime is our crime,” Speed said. “The Banks County Sheriff’s Office serves all people and towns within Banks County. We all work together to better serve and protect our citizens.”
More information about NGI can be found on the FBI’s website at https://www.fbi.gov/…/cjis/fingerprints-and-other-biome…/ngi