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CALLING ALL AMATEUR SLEUTHS
Everything you ever wanted to know about taking legible fingerprints

12/11/03

Rotating fingerprint graphic.Fingerprints -- those loops, whorls, and arches that are so distinctively you and no one else -- are a funny business. But when it comes to catching crooks, they are indispensable.

Using fingerprints to identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent, though, is a relatively new concept in the history of crime fighting. In fact, it was exactly a century ago that the New York state prison system became the first law enforcement agency to start using fingerprints to identify criminals.

How did the FBI get into the act? By the early 1920s, hundreds of local police agencies were keeping fingerprint records of local crooks. But when automobiles began to rule the road, it became easy to leave town fast. The International Association of Chiefs of Police wisely recognized the need for a national repository of fingerprints. At its urging, Congress passed a law creating the Identification Division in the FBI, effective in 1924.

From there, the FBI has ...

In 1932, begun sharing fingerprint records with other nations; Developed the capability to process "latent" prints invisible to the naked eye, using everything from powders to lasers; Taken reams of printed cards that had to be searched and indexed by hand and turned it into a state-of-the-art electronic fingerprint system that can search, process, and catalog millions of fingerprint records at lightning speed; and After 9/11, started fingerprinting terrorists and detainees and making these records available to law enforcement nationwide and beyond so that operatives and suspects can be tracked down more easily.

So all you amateur sleuths, just how do you take a good fingerprint? What does "milking the fingers" mean? How do you account for webbed fingers, amputations, even missing fingers? What does the whorl look like?

For the answers to these questions and a complete guide to "Taking Legible Fingerprints," click on the link below.

Related Links: Taking Legible Fingerprints | FBI Identification Record Request