Fingerprints and DNA profiles: Obtaining faster information from foreign police services thanks to the Prüm Convention
Key points in brief:
Crime often crosses national borders, which is why international cooperation is key to combating it. Cooperation under the Prüm Convention will make the exchange of information between Swiss law enforcement services and those in EU member states faster and more efficient.
Nowadays, terrorists, criminal organisations and transnational gangs operate online, with strong networks across national borders. For example, DNA samples from investigations coordinated across Switzerland into ATM explosions in several cantons led to arrests in Austria and Denmark. To combat this type of cross-border crime more effectively, closer international cooperation is needed.
Information that is vital to police work, such as DNA profiles, fingerprints and vehicle registration data, is stored in national information systems. If Swiss investigating authorities find DNA samples at a crime scene, they first check them against the national DNA database. If there are no matches, they can then check against other countries' databases. This is currently a lengthy process as the request has to be sent out to all countries individually via Interpol. The Prüm Convention will allow an automated search to be triggered in the databases of all participating EU countries with a single request.
The databases concerned are:
- Fingerprint information system AFIS
- DNA profile information system CODIS
- the database on vehicles and vehicle owners
Thanks to the Prüm Convention, fedpol can quickly establish which countries possess the necessary information.
This cooperation allows law enforcement services to identify and locate more rapidly than was previously possible:
- criminals or witnesses
- persons wanted at international level
- missing or deceased persons
The Prüm Convention is not an extension of the Schengen Agreement; Switzerland's participation is therefore voluntary. However, almost all European countries already exchange DNA profiles, fingerprints and vehicle data via Prüm.
Faster access to information from foreign authorities will make investigations more efficient and will improve international police cooperation.
Vienna, Austria: A 75-year old couple are murdered in 2015. The culprit leaves DNA trace evidence on a glove. A search in Austria’s DNA database does not turn up any leads. But when the DNA trace is run against other European databases, the Austrian authorities receive information within minutes that German and Dutch databases contain a similar profile. Less than three weeks after the murder a Polish serial killer is arrested in Germany. His arrest results in other crimes being solved too, among other a murder in Sweden.
Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PCSC) agreementThe PCSC agreement – which was concluded between Switzerland and the United States and is similar in content to the Prüm Convention – also provides for the automated exchange of DNA profiles and fingerprints. The PCSC agreement ensures more efficient police cooperation between Switzerland and the United States.
Access to Eurodac for law enforcement servicesThe automatic exchange of fingerprints and DNA profiles (Prüm cooperation) is a condition for law enforcement services to be able to access the Eurodac database.
The Eurodac database contains the fingerprints of persons who have applied for asylum in a Dublin member state, or who have been caught attempting to enter the Dublin area illegally.
Law enforcement services may only consult the Eurodac database to prevent or investigate serious crimes or cases of suspected terrorism.
Last modification 08.03.2022