Friday, May 3, 2013

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

— Arthur C. Clarke

Fingerprint led to arrest in Dollar General killings, detective testifies (Wichita Eagle)
Detective Tim Relph said a video camera showed the killer walking into the store and quickly leaving after shooting two people with a .22-caliber handgun. The killer tried to exit the store through an entrance door before realizing that the door wouldn’t open from the inside, Relph said. The finger and palm print left on that entrance door proved to be the key to solving the case, he said.

The shooting occurred at 8:01 p.m. on Nov. 30, Relph said, and a computerized fingerprint classification system identified Marshall as a possible suspect by 3:45 the next morning. By 4 a.m., he said, a fingerprint examiner confirmed that the print came from Marshall.

“By 4:30 in the morning there were 50 police officers looking for him,” Relph testified.

Shooting at 8:01 PM. Positive ID before 4:00 AM. That's less than eight hours. Sometimes, we're led by various television programs and movies to believe that the process is much quicker than that.

In actuality, given the steps involved, the eight hour turn-around is magical. Because...

Law enforcement, NIST making fingerprint files easier to search (GCN)
Not all AFIS are alike, however. State and local agencies often maintain their own databases, and although there can be some interoperability in a vertical hierarchy of local, state and federal databases, there is very little interoperability horizontally between neighboring jurisdictions. To search different databases, examiners must mark distinctive features for fingerprints manually for different systems, using different coding, notation methods and data definitions.

See also: Law enforcement interoperability, though little discussed, is a big deal

It looks like quite a lot of progress is being made on the interoperability challenges we've discussed from time-to-time.