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Palm prints help identify mountain bike theft suspect

Investigation tool has become more important in recent years

The importance of fingerprints as evidence in criminal investigations is well established. They have been used for more than a century as evidence in court cases.

But in recent years, the use of palm prints to hone in on a suspect has become more common.

Last month, Medford police were investigating the theft of two mountain bicycles worth a total of more than $19,000 from the back of a truck in the 800 block of Nadia Way.

The vehicle has a canopy with side windows that open. Police were able to collect a latent palm print from the truck canopy.

After police said they received information from an anonymous source, MPD forensic technician Keith Ostrander, who also obtained the palm print, was able to determine it had been made by Bruce Eddie Franklin Jr., of the 2000 block of Delta Waters Road.

Franklin was charged with aggravated theft, a felony, and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor. That case is making its way through Jackson County Circuit Court.

Ostrander described the movement toward more use of palm prints in evidence gathering as “gradual.”

“They are pretty common from my viewpoint,” he said. “It has always been an option.”

Ostrander and Jackson County Sheriff’s Capt. Josh Aldrich said taking palm prints is routine at crime scenes where there was some type of theft or burglary involved and when there’s a need to identify a suspect.

Aldrich said palm prints aren’t done when an incident doesn’t lend itself to that crime scene investigation.

While there are national and local palm print databases, palm prints aren’t required to be collected and stored in Oregon, he said.

Oregon House Bill 2133 would have required law enforcement agencies to collect fingerprints, palm prints and identifying data for persons arrested for felonies or misdemeanors, but the bill didn’t make it through this year’s legislative session, which ended in June.

The FBI’s National Palm Print System has more than 50 million images since it was established in 2013. Last month, it was announced that the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system will add palm prints.

There are three types of prints. Patent prints are visible and made when someone touches hard surfaces with skin coated by such things as dirt, blood, ink and paint. Special powders, chemicals or lights are required to see latent prints. Both are left on hard surfaces.

Plastic prints are three-dimensional and left on soft surfaces, according to Forensic Science Simplified.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at tharber@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.