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Altered Fingerprints

FS Title Page photoAltered Fingerprints: A Challenge to Law Enforcement Identification Efforts

Excerpted from leb.fbi.gov, by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Latent and Forensic Support Unit

For almost a century law enforcement agencies have used fingerprints to identify individuals. Offenders try to defeat fingerprint identification measures in an attempt to hide criminal records, including related deportations. They employ a variety of techniques in their efforts to thwart law enforcement. However, no matter what method they use, their motivation is the same.

FBI fingerprint examiners have encountered situations where criminals, including those in the country illegally, intentionally altered their fingertips themselves or with the assistance of medical professionals. They falsely believed that doing so would prevent law enforcement officials from discovering their true identities.

In 2014 the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division conducted a study of altered fingerprint records maintained in its Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), which became the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System on September 7, 2014. FBI fingerprint examiners isolated 412 fingerprint records in IAFIS that maintained indicators of deliberate print alteration. A review of those records for patterns and trends revealed that Massachusetts officials had the most encounters with individuals who had altered fingerprints, followed by New York, Texas, California, and Arizona.

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