Arresting and processing alleged criminals took "up to two hours" for Horsham Police
That is until about two weeks ago. The 38-member department, through a grant Police Chief Robert Ruxton obtained from the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, acquired the $60,000 to $75,000 equipment that allows for in-house processing of people arrested for misdemeanor, felony or summary offenses, according to Horsham Deputy Chief Bill Daly.
By doing everything in Horsham with the use of a Livescan machine to capture digital fingerprints and a Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network, a searchable digital photo network shared throughout Pennsylvania, Daly said police have cut booking times down to "under an hour."
"It's going to keep our officers on the street more," Daly said. "It's also going to keep our officers safer."
When transporting alleged criminals from one police department to another "safety concerns are heightened," Daly said, adding that people have been known to kick out police windows and try to flee.
This week, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners voted to designate the Horsham Police Department as a member of the countywide booking center community, which means neighboring police departments could process suspects in Horsham 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to county Spokesman Frank Custer.
"Horsham now will be one of 13 facilities that are designated as the booking centers in the county," Custer said.
When police from other police departments bring suspects to Horsham for booking, Daly said Horsham's officers will "most likely" handle the processing. Those additional tasks will not make a difference in the department's staffing, Daly said.
"I don't know if the need will be that great," he said.
Locally, Daly said Upper Dublin, Upper Moreland, Montgomery Township and Warminster all have the equipment in place.
In Hatboro, Police Chief James Gardner said Hatboro police take suspects to Upper Moreland's police station for booking, or use the "older method of taking inked fingerprint cards."
"Not all departments have the equipment," Gardner said.
And, Daly said it might not be necessary for everyone to have it.
"It's so expensive," Daly said. "Does everyone need it?"
While the equipment itself was funded by the state, Daly said Horsham would be responsible for the $14,000 to $16,000 yearly support fees. That expense, he said, would be covered through court fees assessed on each person upon conviction.
"The goal is for this to be self-sufficient," Daly said. "From what we hear from other departments, that does happen."
Horsham dipatcher Dennis Blackburn, who also oversees the department's IT and records, said the department, on average, makes 500 arrests per year. Of those roughly 300 are for offenses where the Livescan and Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network are used.
The computerized photo imaging network will "identify the face" of the person being photographed, according to Blackburn and will check it against surveillance photos and other images in the system to determine if the suspect is on a "watch list" from other police departments.
In demonstrating the Livescan electronic fingerprinting program, Blackburn showed the ease of taking fingerprints and how quickly - within a few seconds - the system either accepts or rejects the print. Daly said that was a far cry from the old days when fingerprints were "rolled" with ink and oftentimes rejected for clarity issues.
"It's instant," Daly said of Horsham's new equipment, adding that criminal histories, as well as warrants and alerts from the FBI are checked when individuals are booked.