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The key to capture.

The Key to Capture

Access control and alarm systems are designed to do a specific task: Keep unauthorized persons away from protected equipment, merchandise, and records. But they don't necessarily prevent robberies, burglaries, or employee thefts. Once access has been gained, by whatever method, the focus changes to finding the perpetrator. One of the tools law enforcement and security forces have used over the years has been the latent fingerprint.

Within the past few years, the computer has totally changed the process of identifying suspects from latent fingerprints. Using what they excel at - storing vast amounts of data and matching data points - computers can do in minutes what it takes a human examiner months to achieve.

Known as the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS), a sophisticated configuration of hardware and software scans enlargements of fingerprints, then codes and stores the information relative to each print. With a baseline of print information on known individuals, the computer can then compare latent prints found at a crime scene with thousands, even millions, of individual prints in a short time.

Using the coded latent print, the computer produces one or more possible matches, called hits. A human technician then pulls a copy from the "ten card" file and compares it with the actual latent to develop a match that will stand up in court. AFIS is revolutionizing the way fingerprints are processed in identifying and apprehending criminals.

Many law enforcement agencies have experienced notable success with AFIS, like the solving of the "Nightstalker" serial killings and other spectacular cases, which have received wide media coverage. Much of the credit for breaking these cases can be attributed to computer technology.

At present, most agencies give priority to crimes against persons (homicide, rape, manslaughter), but the real impact of AFIS technology may well be in removing from circulation those repeat offenders who are skilled in burglary and robbery. This fact alone holds significant promise for industrial security.

It is well-known that an individual who develops a set method of burglarizing businesses, for instance, often repeats that same crime in different locations, using the same or similar techniques. Given the mobility of today's criminals, positively identifying one of these individuals can reveal a surprisingly wide area of operation.

A burglar recently arrested in Nevada, for example, produced AFIS hits in six states, under a long list of aliases, birthdates, and social security numbers. Such information not only helps clear cases to which the criminal can be linked by latents taken from the scenes but also has an impact on sentencing.

For many law enforcement agencies, however, the data base available is limited to the prints in their own files. The prints, entered from ten cards from that agency's records, form a limited pool from which to draw. For small agencies with limited funding, the expense of an AFIS is beyond reach, and thus the advantages are beyond reach.

BUT ALL THIS IS CHANGING, THANKS to an innovative and cooperative effort of law enforcement officers, administrators, and planners in a handful of western states. The pattern established in these states may well be replicated in other areas of the nation and among other jurisdictions. Not only does the solution to the problem of funding speak to the needs of many jurisdictions, the idea of linking several states may also prove a forerunner of even larger linkages.

In early 1988, representatives from law enforcement agencies in six western states met in Boise, ID, to discuss their individual and collective needs relative to AFIS. They shared a common problem - lack of capital to purchase the full complement of hardware and maintain the system.

The group developed the idea of a network of leased smart terminals (or remote input stations) linked by dedicated telephone lines to a central, remotely accessible processing center. Initial data indicated that a combined, shared data base could produce as much as a 50 percent cost savings.

Such links already exist in some states where remote terminals are connected to a central unit. But two basic problems threatened to ground the project before it could get started. The first dealt with individual state laws. With several states involved, statutes restricting what kinds of information could be exchanged with other states' agencies had to be researched and considered. In addition, individual states' legislatures would have to approve funding to supply the needed resources for leasing hardware and dedicated phone lines.

The second problem was ensuring compatibility. Each state's system had to be able to talk to the systems in other states. Without that capability, no interchange of data would be possible. This meant that individual states would have to purchase the same or at least similar equipment. Given the bid requirements of state purchasing agencies, this posed a significant hurdle.

To solve both problems and protect individual members' rights and investments, the group decided to form a non-profit corporation. In May 1988, articles of incorporation and bylaws were filed in Nevada to create the Western Identification Network Inc. (WIN).

The corporation was formed specifically to make it easier to create a multistate network designed to address the needs of the states, both collectively and individually. Hoping for the support of the states involved, the corporation released a request for proposal for a system.

An education program was then launched in each state because, even though the WIN concept is far less expensive than purchasing or leasing equipment on an individual basis, the project still involved a considerable outlay of tax dollars. A multistate, combined effort resulted in a promotional video to educate officials and the public on the advantage of the system. Using Idaho's video studio resources and talent, the tape focused on the advantages of a shared data base.

By September 1988, NEC Information Systems Inc. had been selected to provide equipment. By June 1989, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming had obtained funding. Once the funds became available, WIN established an office and a staff to administer billings, oversee vendor operations, and ensure that contractual requirements were met.

The WIN host computer was installed in Sacramento, CA, and 900,000 print records from five states were converted to AFIS data and loaded into the system. Remote subsytems were installed in Boise, ID; Carson City, NV; Cheyenne, WY; Portland, OR; Salem, OR; and Salt Lake City, UT. Booking terminals are slated to be installed in numerous locations throughout these states. Alaska, California, and Washington systems are currently being connected to the WIN system.

The WIN AFIS, now fully operational, is capable of processing 24,240 arrest cards and 4,500 crime scene latent prints a month against an available data base of 8.2 million criminal fingerprint records. With the pooling of data from individual states, contiguous states' records can also be searched as necessary. Since crime knows no borders, the probability of hits increases greatly.

During the first eight months of operation, WIN has scored 342 burglary hits and 26 robbery hits. The system has identified over 8,000 individuals. Even with priority given to crimes against persons, hits for crimes against property outnumber all others by a ratio of more than three to one.

Some interesting facts have been uncovered through the WIN system. First, as mentioned above, by searching the print files of other states, individuals who are in the habit of operating in adjacent states are being identified. Criminals move from state to state so that if they are caught, they can use an alias and try are caught, they can use an alias and try to get off as a first offender. WIN now allows law enforcement to tract a criminal through all alias names, birthdates, and social security numbers. This kind of information can have a big effect on sentencing.

With 170,000 records being added each month and with other states expected to come on-line in the future, the entire western United States will soon share access to a much more comprehensive data base. The ability to search criminal data in multiple states may indeed prove to be valuable beyond the most optimistic expectations. In time, a national link could be established, perhaps even expanding to a global access system.

The implications of this for industrial security are equally promising. In Nevada, the gaming industry is highly interested in being able to identify applicants who are using an alias on their applicant cards. The ability to match prints and gain a more accurate identification is useful for this business. The gold mining and processing industry is also interested in AFIS as a means of screening out workers with prior records.

Finally, business burglaries are big business for many crooks. AFIS, operating through an expanded system like WIN, will be instrumental in putting many of these crooks out of business.

Mack W. Richardson is director of the Idaho Department of Law Enforcement, headquartered in Boise. He is a member of ASIS. W. C. Overton is chief of the department's Office of Public Affairs.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:automated fingerprint identification system
Author:Richardson, Mack W.; Overton, W.C.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:1493
Previous Article:Working together.
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