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FBI upgrading its criminal justice records system

The next generation identification system is bigger, faster, and more versatile

The next generation identification system is bigger, faster, and more versatile

The massive records database maintained by the FBI in Clarksburg, WV, is getting a significant upgrade that will permit faster replies and a wider variety of information to be stored and retrieved. The new system is called Next Generation Identification (NGI).

Dinosaurs like me, who were cops in the days before automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS), remember rolling prints onto multiple inked tenprint cards for each prisoner booked. Some facilities required as many as a dozen cards for submission to local, state, and federal records system, and each print had to be rolled manually.

There are still some facilities using inked tenprint cards, but most are using livescan machines that capture fingerprints electronically. No matter how many places the information has to be sent, each finger only gets scanned once.

This system allows for much faster print comparison and record retrieval. In the inked card days, it wasn’t unusual to have three or four months go by between sending the prints to the FBI and receiving a receipt and records match. Many a wanted criminal was long gone by the time the agency that arrested him found out who he really was.

NGI increases the capacity of the system, providing a much faster turnaround time and the ability to submit and retrieve multiple biometric data such as palm prints and iris scans. NGI will also store and index mug shots and photos of distinctive "scars, marks and tattoos” (SMT) data. This will be especially useful for identifying gang members who sport similar or unique tattoos.

Speeding Up Turnaround Time
Turnaround time for the existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System is typically two hours for criminal records.

Under NGI, the FBI will be shooting for turnaround times ranging from ten minutes to 24 hours on criminal records, depending on whether the request is flagged as high, routine, or low priority. Civil identification requests will be only a little bit slower, from 15 minutes to 24 hours.

Another new feature of the system is the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC). Records of persons wanted for serious crimes, suspected terrorists, sex offender registrants, and other special interest persons are included in the RISC index.

RISC is tailored for single-print capture devices now deployed in many patrol cars and detective units.

By capturing and transmitting a single print with a mobile device, the user receives a near-instantaneous reply flagged red, yellow or green. Red indicates a highly probably candidate included in RISC, yellow a possible candidate, and green no match for any candidate in RISC.

In the case of a positive response, the reply includes the category of the hit, the master name (the primary name of the person described in the record), their FBI number, and limited information from NCIC. Armed with this data, the officer in the field can then detain the person to get confirming descriptive data, if applicable.

The addition of palm prints to the database will be highly useful for forensic identification. Latent palm prints are routinely found at crime scenes, but absent a suspect who is willing or can be compelled to furnish a palm print for comparison, they don’t do anyone much good. Investigators will now be able to compare palm prints as easily as friction ridge prints.

Some of these features are already deployed. The remaining items, as well as a possible expansion into facial recognition biometric data, will be rolled out over the next few years. 

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