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King County Executive
Dow Constantine

Countywide officials back renewal of levy for crime-fighting Automated Fingerprint Identification System


Voters would be asked to keep the successful Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in operation for another six years, under a proposal to place a property-tax levy renewal on the November general election ballot.


Countywide officials back renewal of levy for crime-fighting Automated Fingerprint Identification System

New efficiencies included in six-year measure proposed for November ballot, with support from Sheriff, Prosecutor, and local police agencies 

Voters would be asked to keep the successful Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in operation for another six years, under a proposal to place a property-tax levy renewal on the November general election ballot.

“As a regional crime-fighting tool, AFIS is our ‘CSI-King County,’ bringing new technology to the job of cracking cases and catching criminals,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who sent the proposal to the Metropolitan King County Council. “The AFIS program is one that historically stays under budget, and this new proposal creates $6.75 million of new efficiencies over the life of the levy.” 

The AFIS program provides criminal fingerprint identification services to police agencies within the County. This regional approach allows the people of King County to invest in technology and services for their local law enforcement agencies, at a minimal cost to the individual taxpayer.  

Voters first approved the AFIS levy in 1986, and since then they have renewed the levy four times, each time with overwhelming community support. The current six-year levy period expires in December.  

The proposed renewal levy rate is 5.92 cents per thousand of assessed valuation for the next six-year period of 2013 to 2018 – about $20.72 per year for the owner of a $350,000 home. If approved by voters, the measure would raise $118.9 million to maintain the current level of services and support current technology over the six-year period.

“In my previous position as Kent’s Police Chief and now as King County’s Sheriff, I have seen firsthand the value of the AFIS technology in identifying criminals and helping crack cases that may otherwise never have been solved,” said King County Sheriff Steve Strachan. “The AFIS program is a model for the efficiency of regional services and shared resources, and I encourage the Council to support this measure.”

"AFIS is our number-one crime-fighting tool in King County, solving more crimes than all other forensic sciences combined," said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.

The legislation sent to the Council on May 24 would ask voters to continue the funding of current services, including the new palmprint-matching AFIS installed in 2011. The maintenance levy would also replace an aging and inadequate regional processing lab and continue technology improvements started in the current levy cycle, such as fingerprinting in the courts and remote fingerprinting in the field by officers.

Efficiencies in the current proposal include a reduction of 11 positions through attrition in the King County and Seattle AFIS operations, estimated to save $6.75 million over the life of the levy. The measure also calls for an $11.5 million reserve for the overdue replacement of the latent print processing lab, which is undersized, ineffective, and presents safety issues for staff. 

The AFIS program historically stays under budget, with savings returned to King County taxpayers through reduced assessments. During the current 2007-2012 levy cycle, the rate was reduced several times, resulting in $18 million less collected than had been approved by voters. No property taxes needed to be collected at all for AFIS in 2006, thanks to reserves built up in the 2000-2005 levy cycle.

“As technology continues to evolve, it is important for law enforcement to have the technological tools available to use in identifying and prosecuting criminals,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Over the past 24 years, our AFIS system has proven its value in solving crimes.”

“Our criminal fingerprint identification system is critical to promoting public safety in our region, and this measure will help make sure our law enforcement officials have the tools they need,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, chair of the Council’s Government Accountability, Oversight, and Financial Performance Committee.

“The Automated Fingerprinting Identification System program has been an invaluable tool for law enforcement in King County,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “The public must be given the opportunity to vote on this important ballot measure.”

On May 25, King County’s regional AFIS program received international accreditation from Forensic Quality Services, which praised the program’s commitment to quality management of procedures, training, and competence.

Local law enforcement agencies throughout the region have added their endorsement of the current proposal:

Bellevue Police Major Mike Johnson, Investigations Section

“Modern policing requires that law enforcement agencies think and operate beyond their jurisdictional boundaries to prevent and solve crime. My belief is that if we focus on regional, enterprise solutions for the work we do, we will be more effective overall. I can think of no better example of a successful regional endeavor for law enforcement than the AFIS program.

“Simply put, AFIS works… it directly helps officers and deputies on the street identify criminals and develop solid cases for the prosecutor’s office. As the Commander of the Investigations Section for Bellevue PD, I have seen first-hand how many “who-done-it” cases have been solved using this technology. As this valuable tool continues to evolve, we have seen even more success recently with the addition of partial print recognition and palm print matching.

“It is a fantastic tool for law enforcement, but it takes money to keep this program running. My hope is that our customers, the residents of King County, also appreciate the value of this tool and support the upcoming Levy that is necessary to maintain and grow this incredible investigative asset.”

Issaquah Police Chief Paul D. Ayers

“The King County Regional Automated Fingerprint System Program (AFIS) is invaluable to Law Enforcement and the citizens its serves.  No matter if the investigation involves a crime that just occurred or a cold case investigation, AFIS assistance is available. There is no better way to build a strong case than with strong evidence, and fingerprint confirmations from AFIS provide us the support and tools needed to close cases.

“Local cites are required by state law to provide their own police and identification services. Communities would not be able to support and maintain AFIS and biometric technology due to its cost and high level of technology and expertise needed by the fingerprint examiners.

“In 2011, Issaquah Police used an AFIS-provided Livescan in excess of 2,100 times to help identify inmates in our jail facility. Correctional Officers use information from AFIS to determine if an inmate is evading a warrant, hiding a criminal record, or using someone’s identity. This is just one of the many tools offered by AFIS that helps protect society. That is why it is so important to continue to support the operation of the King County Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System and why the levy is so important to all citizens in King County.”

Cathy Schrock, Civilian Operations Manager, Federal Way Police Department

“As an AFIS Advisory Committee member since 1997; the City of Federal Way Police Department has realized many collaborative services and equipment through the AFIS levy, contributing to effective crime fighting in our City. 

“It was significantly highlighted in the fourth quarter of 2011. Federal Way Police Department realized a spike in Residential Burglary in November 2011 of 114%.  This problem was not an anomaly to the South King County region; our department launched a Special Operations Plan to immediately impact the problem. In addition to reorganization of department resources; we reached out to King County AFIS for assistance.

“King County AFIS agreed to assign our department one AFIS technician daily to respond and process all residential burglaries. The service was coordinated through our 911 center and KC AFIS was able to equally support several South King County law enforcement agencies at the same time. 

“The response from our officers and citizens was tremendous. Having the extra support and expert collection of potential evidence was a significant benefit toward identifying dangerous criminals in our City. Criminals are not restricted by jurisdictional boundaries; the collection of this critical evidence will benefit multiple agencies now and in the future.”

For more information about the King County AFIS program, please contact Carol Gillespie, Regional AFIS Manager, at 206-296-7515.


Visit for more information about the AFIS program and to download the 2011 Annual Report

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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