N.Y. cabbies hail digital scanner

N.Y. cabbies hail digital scanner

New York City's taxicab drivers can gesture all they want at other motorists without having to worry about ink-stained hands.

The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission is swapping its paper-and-ink applicant fingerprint system for on that uses digital scanning.

The commission licenses and regulates more than 100,000 taxi and other for-hire drivers in the city. New York state law requires the commission to conduct criminal background checks on all applicants for taxi licenses, said TLC commissioner Matthew W. Daus.

For decades, the commission inked the fingertips of each applicant and took prints, which would be shipped to Albany for comparison with the New York criminal database, Daus said. The fingerprinting investigation process took three to four weeks, he said.

Out of ink

This year the commission bought two Live Scan TouchPrint 2000 applicant fingerprint systems from Identix Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

When the TouchPrint systems are set up, applicants will walk up to the window and put their hands on a platen, about 3 inches by 2 1/2 inches. 'No more ink, no getting dirty fingers,' he said.

The TouchPrint 2000 will scan the fingerprints, save them in a digital image format that meets the FBI's standards for Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System files, and transmit them over a secure virtual private network to the state database in Albany.

The investigation process will take a few days, mostly because of the volume of applicants the commission receives, Daus said. The old ink fingerprint system was the most common cause of delays in taxi-driver licensing, Daus said.

The commission checks for criminal convictions, Daus said. 'We take it very seriously. If an applicant has a prior conviction for rape, murder or driving under the influence, that could lead to the denial of a license,' he said.

Each case is reviewed individually by an administrative law judge. 'The overwhelming majority of people who apply don't have convictions,' he said.

The TouchPrint 2000 saves the prints at a resolution of 600 dots per inch in a proprietary digital format developed by Identix. The system comes with a 7G hard drive and runs on Microsoft Windows NT.

Return on investment

The TouchPrint system does not come cheap. Identix officials said the complete system sells for between $30,000 and $50,000.

But the commission estimates the system will bring large savings on staff and processing time, Daus said. 'We're treating our licensees like customers. Better customer service was a big part of former Mayor Giuliani's vision for the city. Mayor Mike Bloomberg is continuing this commitment to customer service,' he said.

The TouchPrint 2000 will make life easier, Daus said. 'And that's what it's all about: using technology to do more with less, without a mess.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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