Women felons give the FBI fingerprint database a hand
- By Thomas R. Temin
- Oct 20, 1997
It's ladies first at the FBI.
The agency has finished the third of six planned components in its Integrated Automated
Fingerprint Identification System a month ahead of schedule, said Douglas J. Domin, IAFIS
The so-called Build C integrated the FBI's Image Transmission Network (ITN) to its AFIS
database for female criminal fingerprint records.
Having recently converted 32 million inked fingerprint records into digital images, the
FBI in Build C has further processed 6 million sets of female criminals' fingerprints so
they can be compared online to new fingerprints, Domin said.
The FBI will convert the remaining 26 million male fingerprint images by February, he
The processing creates fingerprint files in two locations on the FBI system in
Clarksburg, W.Va., Domin said.
The images are stored on magneto-optical cartridge disks in jukeboxes. Minutae--or key
identifying points in each print--are represented as mathematical formulas called feature
The feature vectors are stored in a redundant array of inexpensive disks. The feature
vector database has a speed search rate of 3 million attempts per second, Domin said.
But the female records in IAFIS, delivered by contractors Litton/PRC Inc. and Lockheed
Martin Corp., won't go into production use before completion of the entire IAFIS project,
Domin said. FBI plans to go live with IAFIS in July 1999.
When complete, here's how FBI officials expect IAFIS to work: FBI will digitize
incoming prints, taken either from criminal suspects or latent prints found at crime
scenes, then extract the feature vectors.
Via ITN, the FBI will separate the remaining information, such as a suspect's name and
address, for comparison against the agency's criminal history database, the Interstate
Then, the FBI will run the feature vectors against AFIS and the ID data against III. If
there's a fingerprint match, the operator will call up the corresponding full image for
visual comparison and confirmation. And III data will show whether the suspect is who he
or she claimed to be.
The resulting information will be returned to the requesting police jurisdiction online
via the Criminal Justice Information System WAN, which is still under construction.
IAFIS deputy program manager James J. Jasinski described ITN as a traffic cop directing
fingerprint and other suspect data to the appropriate database.
The Image Storage and Retrieval Element of IAFIS went live this month, too. ISRE
supports online access to the 32 million fingerprint images.
"There's no more pulling cards out of a file cabinet," Domin said. "This
is the single largest advance in fingerprint processing we've ever achieved."
Jasinski estimated the FBI has spent $328 million on IAFIS to date.
Although digitization of the current records is complete and FBI operators are
digitizing some 5,000 new prints daily as they arrive in Clarksburg, the agency still must
work off a backlog of matches requested by state and local police, Domin said. FBI
statistics show that 11,000 suspects are released before local officials can get a match
from the FBI, he said.
The Clarksburg facility now takes up to 100 days to turnaround a request. The FBI wants
to cut that time to two hours after IAFIS and the communications infrastructure are
complete, Domin said.