Fingerprinting pros, more than the cons

The idea of Barbadian authorities having a database of fingerprints for both civil and criminal reference appears to be an excellent one.

For those who seek to dwell on the negative and ignore the overwhelming positives of such an initiative, there is perhaps a need to drag them – kicking and screaming if needs be – into the real world of the 21st Century.

Government has signalled its intention to follow the international practice in numerous jurisdictions of fingerprinting visitors at point of arrival, as well as doing the same to nationals entering or leaving their homeland. Already there have been puerile comments about the fingerprinting measure negatively affecting tourism in terms of the timely processing of arrivals and departures.

There has also been impish political conjecture about a circumstance where a Barbadian national might refuse to be fingerprinted and be prohibited from entering the land of his birth. In any sphere where there is a lawful process, reasonable human beings comply with rules and regulations. That is why they produce their passports to immigration officials when travelling and not doughnuts. That is why persons of sound mind go to the licensing authority and renew their drivers licences if they want to use our roads lawfully. That is why if persons are required to pay a departure tax at the Grantley Adams International Airport, they do so if they want to depart. That is why people who require a certificate of character for an employment opportunity, actually apply for the document.

Surely for persons wanting to travel to and from the island, the knowledge that they cannot leave or enter Barbados without obeying the rules should be enough to encourage compliance.  Why should fingerprinting be any different?  Most of the objections – and there have been very few – seem to relate to administrative considerations. Authorities will have to look at manpower, use of technology, education and facilities to accommodate the process. Surely, in a country that boasts of more than 95 per cent literacy, this cannot be an insurmountable task.

We think, however, that naysayers should focus on the immense benefits of having a database of fingerprints that keeps getting bigger and assists in ensuring the safety of not only travellers but the wider community.

The role that fingerprinting can play in the fight against terrorism requires no debate.

In 1978 Caroll Bonnet was stabbed to death in his Omaha, USA home. Fingerprint evidence was found at the scene and collected. In 2011, after his killer’s prints came into the database for another matter the authorities were able to solve the 33-year-old case.

History has shown where fingerprinting has been used in matters of identity theft, to positively identify deceased persons whose remains might be indiscernible as a result of fire or dismemberment but whose finger ridges are still in tact. To date no two persons have ever had the same fingerprints, thus it is an excellent form of identification.

In 1924 in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation introduced a fingerprint database. Since that time they have processed more than 350 million fingerprint cards. The authorities then developed an Automated Fingerprint Identification System which computerized the card system. There is now the capacity to match prints from their database in fewer than two hours.

There have been instances in Barbados where fingerprints of criminals were left at scenes and have never been identified, simply because there was no reference point if the culprit did not come physically into the system at some stage. One can only imagine the number of law-abiding citizens who would have been saved the inconvenience of being the victims of crime if authorities had access to such a computerized database at the time.

Of course, a fingerprint database has a civil use with respect to persons applying for Government jobs, especially in high security, military and paramilitary agencies, as well as in the teaching profession where the protection of vulnerable children is paramount and such a database would be vital.

Notwithstanding that Barbados is seeking to fall in line with the established international practices, any legitimate measure employed to ensure the safety of the island and its citizens should be embraced. Any measure that has at its kernel, the desire to increase the ability of authorities to better identify those who enter and leave the country adds to operational efficiencies.

Sadly, we have a culture in Barbados where we complain about most changes or introduction of new measures, but comply readily when we confront those same systems in our travels.

6 Responses to Fingerprinting pros, more than the cons

  1. Alex Alleyne February 18, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Right on. I am with you all the way.

  2. Fred February 18, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Issuing Biometric Passports would be the best thing for Barbadian citizens. This would mean you take the persons fingerprints when they apply for a passport or apply to have one renewed. Therefore you can build a national database and remove the need to have citizens go through the hassle of fingerprinting on leaving and entering. Tourists without biometric passports would be subject to fingerprinting and for those with biometric passports that contain fingerprint information, you would just scan the chip and obtain the information without having to take it again.

    There is always a better solution.

  3. Richard Johnston February 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Puerile, impish comment here. I have been visiting Barbados from New York once or twice a year since 1985 and I can tell you I will not go there again if I am going to be fingerprinted like a common criminal. I possess a “Trusted Traveler” card from US immigration services that serves their purposes fine, and it should serve those of your island nation.

    Solving one 1978 crime hardly amounts to justification for this enormous imposition on visitors and expense to the country that has trouble picking up its garbage. “Welcome to sunny Barbados, where we don’t trust you enough to let you in without fingerprinting you.” Cite me a case where a potential terrorist has entered Barbados and committed a crime. I mainly wonder whose brother-in-law runs the fingerprinting company that put this one over on gullible officials.

  4. j donawa February 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Who ever wrote this article should be ashamed of themselves. The author is complicit in promoting propaganda to eliminate the freedoms of Barbados. If you honestly believe that treating people like criminals is not going to effect tourism need to get their head examined. Barbados is already one of the more expensive tourist destinations, people vacation to feel free, not to feel like suspects. With Barbados economy already in a sour state this is without doubt a bull headed move in the wrong direction. It is a violation of human rights of the highest order. I would never visit a country where i had to get fingerprinted. A truly democratic nation is one which moves towards freedom and fostering its peoples potential no eliminating freedoms

  5. David February 19, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    I have no problem being finger printed when I leave and return to Barbados.Any measure to enhance border security in Barbados I would support.

  6. Douglas Holland February 22, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Regarding the tourism impact: Canadians entering the USA, one of the two most security-conscious countries in the world, are not fingerprinted, although all other foreign nationals (excluding diplomats) are. Many Canucks will not appreciate being fingerprinted to enter Barbados. It will make us feel we are being treated as suspected criminals. I seriously doubt whether the information will be used in Barbados to any good effect, although I suspect that it may be shared with the USA. In sum, it will be a heavy use of scarce resources (unless another country is paying for it) and have a negative impact on the tourism-dependent economy. It seems like a back-door way to fingerprint any Barbadian who travels outside the country, which may identify some criminals IF crime scenes were treated professionally. Barbados can do what it chooses, and tourists can (and many will) choose to go elsewhere.


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