Processing Latent Fingerprints--What are the Payoffs?

by Joan R. Petersilia

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This comparative analysis of the physical evidence collection and processing efforts in six police departments shows that a heavier investment in evidence technicians and a policy of routinely dispatching technicians to all felony crime scenes produces a higher print recovery rate, yet does not affect the rate at which fingerprint identifications serve to identify suspects. Regardless of organizational differences in response time, percentage of reported crimes processed, and the type of personnel responsible for processing the site (police or civilian), only four to nine percent of all latent prints are eventually matched with a suspect's inked prints. This study recommends that the print identification process in larger police departments should be facilitated by arranging the print files by geographical area, with a fingerprint specialist assigned to each area. It is also suggested that an information system should be devised to link investigators and fingerprint specialists. This should help promote the reciprocal exchange of information. 27 pp.

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