Finger Points To Crime
Since the NYPD’s Latent Print Section began reexamining cold cases last October, 214 homicide suspects have been identified by investigators using automated fingerprint identification systems. Of those suspects, 30 have been arrested, many in connection with decades-old homicide investigations that had long since grown cold.
Last year, the NYPD became the only police department in the state with the ability to search its arrest database for palm prints, and as a result saw an immediate increase in the number of criminal suspects identified–1,291 last year compared to 982 in 2003. The results have been even better this year, as police have identified 812 suspects as of Aug. 30, compared to 672 during the same period last year.
Automated fingerprint identification systems, which began to revolutionize the way police search for suspects in the early 1990s, allow investigators to scan crime scene prints into a computer instead of manually comparing ink fingerprints on arrest cards. Examiners mark specific characteristics of the prints, then search local, state, and federal criminal databases for a match. After the computer pulls up known criminals who share enough matching characteristics, examiners compare the matching prints side-by-side on the computer, and use a magnifying glass to examine prints before turning a suspect over to investigators.
Despite the success that the NYPD has had with automated fingerprint identification systems, some remain skeptical about the validity of print analysis, including John Jay College forensic science professor Lawrence Kobilinsky, who said more work needs to be done to ensure that there is no confusion about what constitutes a match.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the New York Daily News (09/18/05) P. 14; Melago, Carrie .