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Fort Lauderdale’s Automated System Speeds Fingerprint Identification

Typical of many cities throughout the country, Fort Lauderdale’s system of identifying criminal suspects through fingerprints left at the crime scene used to take as long as three months – and sometimes a match was never found. Since January, however, a new system has made it possible to check on suspects’ prints in as little as 10 minutes.

In January, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department purchased and installed the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), a high-tech computer that electronically photographs and transmits fingerprint images to Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement database. There, the images are compared to the five million sets of prints of persons who have been arrested in the State of Florida; the system picks 18 of the closest matches, or “hits,” and immediately transmits them to the Fort Lauderdale department where a latent print examiner analyzes each hit to determine whether any of them matches the subject prints.

Since installing the AFIS, the Police Department has identified more than 70 suspects, and cases now are being closed at a faster rate. “Once we lift a fingerprint from a crime scene, it’s simply a matter of getting the print to the computer and sending it off to the State’s database,” says Carl Ciotola, Fort Lauderdale’s Chief Latent Print Examiner. “The system has helped us identify and arrest suspects in as quick as an hour after the crime is committed. The best thing about AFIS is the response time.”

Information on AFIS is available from Alison Hibbert at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, (954) 468-1506.

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