Franklin County Sheriff's Office tests out footprint crime database

Franklin Co. Sheriff's Department becomes first in the nation to test new system

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

FRANKLIN COUNTY - The Franklin County Sheriff's Office is the first in the nation to test out a new evidence and data collecting system that could help the department solve more crimes.

The Everspry System keeps track of shoe prints the way current police and FBI systems keep track of fingerprints. There are hundreds of thousands of footprints on file, ready to be sorted through and matched up in any criminal investigation.

Franklin County Sheriff's Office was selected as the first department to test out the system because it's being developed by a Franklin County business, Evident. The company has partnered with the China-based business, Everspry, to create the footwear evidence collection and comparison system.

Everspry will allow the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to collect sample shoe impressions from every person booked into the Franklin County Jail.

While there could be thousands of pairs of the exact same brand and make of shoe, Sheriff Bill Overton says it's the way we wear our shoes that makes each of our footprints as unique as a fingerprint.

"Like a fingerprint, shoe wear and footwear impressions are unique to individuals based on body weight, their arches, how they walk and how they wear their shoe," Overton said. "They leave a distinct marking and this can be very important in working any aspect of a criminal investigation."

The system will allow investigators to pull up the database-- they could even do it with their cell phone at the crime scene-- and compare any footprints left behind to the hundreds of thousands of prints in the system.

Everspry and Evident have spent more than a year working with deputies at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, to create and test the database. A system like this will play a key role in catching repeat offenders, as once they've been arrested their shoe print will always remain in the system.

Crime analysts say footwear evidence and shoe prints are often the most abundant form of evidence at a crime scene. For years, investigators around the world have been creating molds and impressions of the prints or taking pictures of the shoe tracks left behind. Until now, they had to wait until they found a suspect or person of interest to test out the shoes.

The new system allows police to put that information into a database and instantly find potential matches.

"You have a database, a collection of  shoe wear of people that have been arrested. You can run those prints through the system and see if any of the particular shoe wear for an individual you've arrested is in the database as the match to the prints that you have," says Sheriff Overton.

Overton says the program will reach maximum impact when it is rolled out across Southwest Virginia and nationwide. Then, instead of having thousands or hundreds of thousands of footprints in the system it could be made up of millions of shoe impressions, similar to the way the FBI fingerprint database works today.

It's a program the community will get to see firsthand Tuesday morning when it's unveiled and tested during a presentation at the Sheriff's Department at 8:45 a.m.

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