ARLINGTON - Police
are asking businesses to voluntarily participate in a program to
take customers' fingerprints if they pay by check.
Operation Thumbs Up, scheduled to begin citywide Sunday, aims to
help authorities identify check theft and forgery by obtaining a
source of identification that can't be stolen or faked -
fingerprints. The system is similar to those used by banks that
require fingerprints on checks.
"No longer can we rely on the driver's license as a valid form of
identity when passing a check," Detective Kyle Gibson said. "We
can't expect clerks to memorize every face in a line. By getting a
print, we can place that person when the check was passed to get a
The program was announced Friday. Police spokeswoman Christy
Gilfour said the department is considering making the program
Participating stores will be clearly identified to the public.
Employees will be trained to take fingerprints. A series of town
hall meetings will be scheduled to explain the program to business
owners and the community. Wes Jurey, president of the Arlington
Chamber of Commerce, said the organization will help make
Arlington's 10,000 store owners aware of the program's benefits over
the coming weeks. Jurey said there has been no adverse reaction from
business owners he has talked to about the program.
"I think most people are not aware of how easy it would be for a
person to come into a store, open an account with another person's
identity, charge a large amount of merchandise and return it. Then
the merchant has a problem," Jurey said.
Alan Levy, chief of the criminal division of the Tarrant County
district attorney's office, said having a fingerprint means "there
won't be any question about who passed the check" and will save
prosecutors time litigating fraud cases.
Police said Arlington has had an increase in check fraud during
the past three years. From 1999 to July 2002, detectives worked
8,463 forged check cases resulting in $1.7 million in losses to
merchants, according to police records. In most of these cases,
detectives have no suspects because fraudulent identification was
used, Sgt. James Crouch said.
Police said fingerprinting systems are inexpensive compared to
merchandise loss and will help keep prices down for the consumer.
Systems will cost businesses between $2 and $40 a month to operate,
Gibson said. Businesses will purchase the type of system they want
The systems range from an inkless pad in which the chemical
easily rubs off the skin, to an electronic sensor that compares a
customer's print to a pre-scanned fingerprint, Crouch said. Another
system involves a clear chemical that leaves a blue imprint when
pressed onto a chemical-sensitive sticker that is usually placed
onto the back of a check.
Police assured they will only see prints when a business submits
a forged check for investigation, Crouch said. The print will then
be checked against others in a statewide criminal fingerprint
Pam Dawson, property manager for the Lincoln Square shopping
center, said seven stores have participated in the program since
March, and she expects all 88 stores in the center to comply.
"Our goal is to show we are a safe shopping center," she said.
"If you are a fraudulent check user, we don't want you to come to
Dawson doesn't expect complaints from customers.
"I anticipate if you are not guilty of anything, it's not going
to matter to you if someone takes your thumbprint," she said.