May 8, 2009

A Calgary shelter is scanning the fingerprints of its homeless clients, citing problems with gang members and drug dealers sneaking into the facility.

[efoods]Dermot Baldwin, head of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, said people who have been barred from the shelter use fake identification to get in.

The homeless shelter is testing a new $150,000 security system that scans clients’ fingerprints, and Baldwin said he expects it will be fully up and running in a few weeks.

The system is not a violation of privacy, Baldwin said. The information the scanner takes is for the centre’s use only and will not be passed on to anyone else.

“This is a private system, internal to us. Out of 187 people, we had four people that wanted to know more about it, with one serious objection,” he said.

Brian Edy, a civil rights lawyer, suggested that the centre rely on metal detectors or install lockers for people to leave their belongings outside as alternatives to the “intrusive” fingerprinting.

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