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Originally published Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 3:44 PM

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Renew levy to support fingerprint system

AFIS, a system that enables law officers in King County to compare fingerprints and palm prints in a database with hundreds of thousands of files, should be renewed by voters.

Seattle Times Editorial

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King County voters should approve the $120 million six-year levy to support the Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Jesse Ryan Gonzales is the reason why.

At some point when he was in the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl he raped in December 2011, he put his hand down on the glass surface of a vanity. The palm print left behind was compared with 350,000 others in the system's databases and it matched one taken from Gonzales after a 2006 arrest. He was arrested within four days of the rape.

Dan Satterberg, King County prosecuting attorney, said the arrest would not have been made so quickly without AFIS, which had been updated in March 2011 to match palm prints as well as fingerprints.

By approving the renewal levy on the Nov. 6 ballot, voters would authorize a property tax rate of 5.92 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a six-year period starting in 2013. It would cost the owner of a $350,000 home about $20 a year.

Besides maintaining the system, the money would be used to develop a replacement lab and to continue studying AFIS operations with handheld wireless devices.

AFIS, which has been renewed four times since 1986, is used by the county, the Seattle Police Department and all suburban police departments. It connects them to regional, state and national networks.

Gonzales lives in prison now, serving a 25-year term with an option that could become life in prison.

Putting Gonzales -- and others such as he -- where they belong is why police need AFIS and why voters should say yes to this levy.

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