Shenzhen police are to set up a digital fingerprint database to log the activities of repeat offenders as part of intensified efforts to keep track of petty crime. Lowu Public Security Bureau spokesman Xue Zhe said yesterday that a personal information database, including offenders' fingerprint records from each community in the district, would be used to track the criminal activities of pickpockets and thieves. Suspects would face increased penalties if shown to be habitual thieves. 'Crimes of theft and robbery are rampant in Shenzhen, especially in Lowu district where many Hong Kong people live,' he said. 'Before, police would only detain thieves and robbers for a day or two and then set them free if the cash value [involved] was less than 2,000 yuan in a single case. 'Most of them repeatedly commit thefts, even though they are caught many times, since they know the petty crimes of a casual offender will not result in a criminal charge. However, from now on they will face conviction if we find them to be repeat offenders. Digital fingerprint scanning technology will help us a lot.' Mr Xue did not specify the definition of a repeat offender or detail penalties. Dong Likun, a professor from Shenzhen University's Law College, said the move could help curb petty crime. 'To hand down more severe punishment on the basis of cumulative offences is inside the ... law and will be effective in frightening off criminals.' Wang He, a 35-year-old newspaper reporter, said he feared the new rule would increase corruption among frontline police officers. He said repeat offenders might bribe officers to avoid a second black mark on their criminal record. 'That raises the issue of how to supervise the watchdog. It's a really big problem.'