Palm prints, which police claim can account for a fifth of all crime scene marks, have been collected by forensics officers for more than two years, but it is only now that they can be automatically searched for matches against a national database.
The palm print database is an extension of the Ident1 biometric technology developed by PITO, short for police IT organization, to replace the national fingerprint database. PITO says Ident1 will provide a "strategic platform for future biometric capabilities and a wider range of identification services."
Some of the police forces already using the palm print-searching tool include Northamptonshire Police and Humberside Police, the latter of which says it has found 20 matches since starting to use the system this month.
"We would not have been able to achieve these matches without the new palms tool, as we did not have the associated finger(print) marks to go on in each case," Richard Gallagher, head of the fingerprint bureau at Humberside, said in a statement.
Fred Preston, director of identification at PITO, said the "state of the art" tools will help police forces tackle the daily business of solving crime.
Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.