Fingerprinting stolen cars already paying off

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Fingerprinting stolen cars may take an extra effort, but police have made at least two matches so far in the first month of a new policy to collect evidence from recovered vehicles.

As The Examiner reported last month, 65 officers, sergeants and inspectors have been trained to dust for fingerprints. Those trained officers have passed on their knowledge to other frontline officers who are taking extra time to collect samples from the thousands of cars that are broken into or stolen every year.

Police Chief George Gascón said he doesn’t want to take officers away from priority crimes, but as officers are waiting for a truck to tow away a stolen car, or if they respond to someone who just had a window smashed, the fingerprinting process would be quick.

On Wednesday, Officer Tiffany Gunter described how she collected a print that matched a woman who, according to Mission Police Station Capt. Greg Corrales, had 11 previous cases of auto theft.

“I saw a metal surface on the gearshift and took a good print,” Gunter said.

possession and violating her parole. Now, police are working on building a case against the woman for the latest car theft.After the print matched, police realized the suspect, Esmeralda Murdago, 27, already had been arrested on suspicion of narcotics

It’s at least the second time the department has found a match on a stolen vehicle since the policy started in January. Another case has been opened at Taraval Police Station, Lt. Lyn Tomioka said.

The number of fingerprint samples taken by officers and submitted to the crime lab was not immediately available.

Charting auto crimes

San Francisco police say not all thefts from vehicles are reported, but thousands are still recorded in department reports every year:

    Auto burglaries   Auto thefts
       
2008    12,180        6,206
2009    11,075        5,081

Comparing 2009, ’10 to date:

2009    986    624
2010    781    350

Sources: Police Department, CompStat

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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