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Fingerprints: Then And Now Essay

1839 words - 8 pages

The history of fingerprint identification dates back all the way to the 200s BC. Ancient Chinese history shows details of using handprints as evidence in investigations of burglaries all the way back to 221-206 BC. Fingerprinting has been a major component in identification for crime scene investigations and law enforcement for centuries.
In July of 1858, the English began using fingerprints when Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, James Herschel came up with the idea of using whole handprints instead of signatures. He took the hand of businessman Rajyadhar Konai, and pressed his hand onto a contract. Herschel claimed the idea was a mere tactic to ...view middle of the document...

Galton, however, was more interested in using prints to identify heredity, racial background, and intelligence; he soon realized that fingerprints did not serve this purpose, but did discover that no two prints are exactly the same, and they do not change during the course of one’s life- something that Herschel had already suspected in his time. Galton also calculated that the chances of two fingerprints being the same are 1 in 64 billion.
The 1900s were the beginning of the national use of fingerprint identification in the U.S. In 1902 the New York Civil Service Commission became the first to use fingerprints for testing, and just a year later the New York State Prison was the first prison system to use fingerprints for criminals. During these first several years of the 1900s, a great deal of things happened with the use of fingerprinting. The International Association of Chiefs of Police created the first national fingerprint archive, called the National Bureau of Criminal Identification, in 1904. In 1905, the Army began using fingerprints, and the U.S. Department of Justice formed the Bureau of Criminal Identification in Washington, DC in order to create a more centralized placement of for fingerprint cards. Just two years after the Army began using fingerprints, the Navy and U.S. Marines joined in and also began using prints as well.
The next big discovery occurred in 1918 when Edmond Locard, using Galton’s details, found that if 12 points between two separate fingerprints matched, it would serve as a positive identification. To this day, some countries do require a certain number of characteristics between prints in order to claim a positive identification, however, the United States does not.
By 1946, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), had already processed over 100 million fingerprint cards, and doubled that amount to 200 million over the next 25 years. The fingerprint identification system, known as AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) was also introduced during this time, holding nearly 30 million criminal records which were maintained on computers; the civil files continued to be maintained manually, however.
Modern day fingerprint identification brings us to July 28, 1999 when the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) was launched. IAFIS is the largest fingerprint database in the world, holding more than 34 million civil fingerprints, 70 million criminal prints, and even 73,000 prints from suspected or known terrorists that come from not only the U.S., but international agencies that work with IAFIS as well. Fingerprints are not the only thing that IAFIS holds in its files, though; the system also holds mug shots, photos of SMTs (scars, marks, tattoos), criminal histories, and even physical characteristics such as eye/hair color, height, weight, et cetera.

Use of fingerprints today
Fingerprints are much more than just a print or pattern found on surfaces or stamped onto a piece of...

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