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System for provision of fingerprints to begin next month

On Jan. 5, 2019, the Japanese and U.S. governments will start operating a system based on “the agreement on enhancing cooperation in preventing and combating serious crime (PCSC).” Through the system, the two governments will share fingerprints of criminals. The system is aimed at preventing travelers suspected of being involved in serious crimes such as terrorism from entering the two countries, as well as investigating them. Tokyo intends to use the system to cross-reference fingerprints left at the scenes of serious crimes, including the case in which all the members of a family were killed at their home in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward at the end of December 2000.


According to the National Police Agency (NPA), Japan will provide fingerprints of 11 million suspects including ones of who have been arrested. The NPA manages those fingerprints in a database including about 380,000 fingerprints left at the scenes of unsolved crimes. These may include the fingerprints of the perpetrator of the Setagaya murders. Based on evidence left at the crime scene, the police believe someone from overseas might have been involved in the murder of the family members. On the other hand, in the U.S., the FBI has fingerprints of about 75 million people and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has fingerprints of 230 million. The DHS is currently building an information provision system. For the time being, Japan will share fingerprint information with the FBI.


The cross-reference service will target crimes punishable by at least three years’ imprisonment with or without hard labor including preparation for murder, which could lead to terrorism. In the first stage of inquiry, investigators will confirm whether the other country’s database has fingerprints matching those left at the scenes of terrorist attacks or unsolved cases or fingerprints of suspects whose identities can’t be determined even after their arrest. If there are matching fingerprints, the requesting country will move on to the second stage by explaining the purpose of the inquiry to the other country in order to receive more information such as name, birth date and arrest record. In the past, Japan and the U.S. have mutually provided fingerprint information through the International Criminal Police Organization or based on the mutual legal assistance treaty. The procedures required time. Once the new system starts, the division in charge of the system can make the first stage inquiry of their counterpart online, which will speed up the process.


The cross-reference agreement was concluded in 2014. The NPA helped draft the relevant legislation in preparation for the start of the new system.

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