Detectives in West Yorkshire can now be working on fingerprints and footprints within hours of forensic scientists lifting them from a crime scene.

The remarkable breakthrough which can massively speed up investigations has been revealed by West Yorkshire Police.

It is part of a £4m project to make big improvements in the speed at which key evidence is made ready for examination.

The two-year project to introduce digital transmission of forensic evidence has been led by the Regional Scientific Support Services (RSSS) for the four police forces covering Yorkshire and Humber – including West Yorkshire police – with Home Office funding.

It means results from the crime lab are available to detectives in a few hours instead of days.

RSSS director Neil Denison said: “It means that the time taken for a key piece of evidence such as a fingerprint or footwear impression is identified much quicker than it was previously.

“This can make all the difference in bringing offenders to justice. This is real science in action making a real difference to the communities we serve. It is helping to transform the way in which forensic services are delivered and police investigations undertaken.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “I fully support this work which has the potential to be a real game changer for police investigations and is indicating a huge decrease in the amount of time taken to process certain forensic evidence from scenes of crime.

“The investment in our scientific support services in West Yorkshire has enabled us to put our region at the cutting edge of this work, which is fantastic.”

He added: “It’s crucial that we never rest on our laurels and continually look to improve and transform our services. Technological advances such as these have the potential to not only increase the speed and ability to solve crimes, but also reduce crime from happening in the first place.

Police Scientific Support, Wakefield. Developments in turn round times for the processing of finger prints and boot prints from a crime scene. A Crime Scene investigator with a photograph of fingerprints, which are sent directly from the camera to a tablet so they can be compared on the system for immediate results.

“When criminals discover that their chances of being caught have increased they are less likely to take the risk, and importantly the speed of justice for victims could be dramatically improved.”

Det Supt Nick Wallen, a senior investigating officer with West Yorkshire Police, said: “Investigations into major incidents such as murders or serious sexual assaults can be very fast moving and very often science is the key to bringing an offender to justice.

“What this pilot does is greatly speed up the results coming back to the laboratory for testing and ultimately helps me as a senior investigating officer bring people to justice.

“The speeding up the processing of potentially key evidence improves the likelihood of early detection, arrest or recovery of property.”

The project is expected to cost £4.1m over the two financial years 2016/17 and 2017/18.