43 Million-Print Database Puts The Finger On Suspects
With its database of more than 43 million sets of fingerprints, the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) has helped put many criminals behind bars since it was first implemented in July 1999. Indeed, it was IAFIS that helped capture the suspects in the much-publicized Washington, D.C.-area sniper case in October.
The federal government sees another application for the system: to help protect homeland security. The government is mulling over the idea of requiring foreigners to be fingerprinted before they can apply for a visa; under terms of this plan, the visa-related fingerprints would be matched against existing fingerprints in the IAFIS database to uncover suspected terrorists or other criminals, especially those who could be using aliases.
The FBI’s ultimate plan is to give all 50 states a direct link to IAFIS, as only 19 states have direct local access to the system right now.
Prior to the existence of IAFIS, the fingerprint-search process could take months to complete, but that process has now been reduced to mere hours. Specifically, when law enforcement agencies make an electronic request for a criminal fingerprint search from IAFIS, the process usually takes no longer than two hours, while civil searches from other state agencies take about 24 hours.
Police departments with the appropriate infrastructure can gain immediate access to the system; those that do not have this access must wait for the FBI Forensics Lab in Washington, D.C., to process the prints.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (01/06/03) P. 1A; Tofig, Dana .