Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
FBI Checks Fingerprint Database After Miss –
SAN LUIS OBISPO TRIBUNE, CA
- May 5, 2005
...bureau admits that it missed a
fingerprint match for a man who authorities say later killed four
The Real World of Crime Scene Investigators
– KLASTV.com, NV
- May 6, 2005
...I like what they do. The only problem is, I
can't solve it in an hour usually... wish I could...
Hearing to Dismiss Charges in 1980 Murder Begins –
NORTH COUNTY TIMES, CA - May 6, 2005
...the source of two fingerprints
found in 1980 in the home of a murdered Oceanside couple remains
Experts: 'CSI' Unrealistically Depicts Job –
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, CA - May 6, 2005
...shows have boosted enrollment in
forensic science classes, yet many in the field say they give future
CSI's an unrealistic view...
Last week, we looked at part 1 of a historical and philosophical view on
recognition and latent print examination from Craig Coppock. We will
continue with that article in the near future, but last week news of an IAFIS
tenprint miss with tragic consequences broke out in the national news. NPR
Morning Edition and All Things Considered picked up this story, along with
scores of news articles across the country.
This week we look at different perspectives from several of these
Perspectives on the IAFIS
tenprint miss of Jeremy Brian Jones.
Just the Facts:
Responsibility For Fugitive Serial Killer
May 4, 2005 5:19 p.m. EST
By JASEN LEE, All Headline News Staff Reporter
ATLANTA, GA (AHN) – A serial killer was allowed to go free
because the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to identify his
fingerprints when he was arrested on other charges.
Jeremy Jones now faces capital murder charges in Alabama for the
murder and rape of a woman in 2004.
Authorities in Georgia arrested Jones three different times on
minor offenses under an assumed name in 2003 and 2004. Since the
FBI had not filed the fingerprints, when Jones was arrested for
another minor offense using his real name, he was let go. He was
wanted in Oklahoma for sexual assault at the time.
Jones had been questioned by investigators on several occasions
before and after the Georgia arrests.
An FBI statement says, "Law enforcement lost an opportunity to
prevent further criminal activity by this individual." Officials
attribute the error to a technical glitch.
Jones is a suspect in several rapes and murders in at least four
From a victim's Husband:
Failure to ID suspect 'ludicrous'
By STEPHEN GURR
Times regional staff
The husband of a Cumming
woman who authorities believe fell victim to a suspected serial killer said
the FBI's failure to identify the suspect while he sat in jail before her
abduction was "ludicrous."
Patrice Endres' husband, Rob Endres, said Wednesday that the FBI deserved
"kudos for coming forward and admitting they made a mistake."
But he said Jeremy Jones never should have been free to kill again, as
authorities maintain he was.
"There were two chances to get him and they blew them," Endres said.
"They would have saved the lives of four beautiful women."
Thomas E. Bush, the FBI's assistant director for criminal justice
information services, acknowledged this week that the bureau's automated
fingerprint identification system failed to "red flag" Jones' prints.
Jones, who is suspected in the deaths of at least five women in four
states, spent much of 2003 and 2004 in the Carroll County and Douglas County
jails in West Georgia.
He was wanted on a fugitive warrant in Ohio for jumping bond on a rape
charge at the time he was jailed for minor offenses in Georgia.
But the system the FBI uses failed to make a match on his fingerprints,
Jones later was released and is suspected of committing at least two more
murders, including that of Patrice Endres, who went missing in April 2004
and whose body has not been recovered.
Authorities say Jones has confessed to kidnapping and killing the woman
and dumping her body in a Douglas County creek.
"The FBI regrets this incident," Bush said. "We continue to improve our
procedures and examine new technologies to upgrade and enhance the
reliability and accuracy of (the system)."
Georgia arrest procedures call for local law enforcement agencies to
submit fingerprints to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which in turn
gives them to the FBI.
The prints are compared against a computerized database of about 450
million, FBI spokesman Joe Parris said.
A computer system handles the process, with human examiners no longer
scrutinizing the prints.
"The fingerprint was presented through AFIS, and the automated system
failed to make the match," Parris said. "Nobody did anything wrong, nobody
was derelict in their duties.
"This was not a botched fingerprint match. This was the AFIS system
operating within its expected error range."
Parris said the system had a margin of error of about 5 percent. "Nobody
did anything wrong, the system just failed to make the match, with
admittedly tragic consequences."
Rob Endres said he hopes the FBI investigates the reasons for the
"An apology is great, but find the problem and fix it," he said.
"We rely on these people, and we can't continue to have failures."
From a fingerprint consultant:
NPR Interview: Kenneth Moses discusses shortfalls in the FBI's
May 5, 2005
MELISSA BLOCK, host: A failure of the FBI's computerized system to
match fingerprints allowed a wanted sex offender to walk free in
Georgia. Authorities say after he was released, Jeremy Brian Jones
went on to kill four women. Last year Jones was picked up on minor
offenses and fingerprinted. But when those fingerprints were entered
into the computer and sent to the FBI, there was no match. The check
did not turn up the fact that he had previously been arrested for
rape and had jumped bail. He's since been arrested and is in jail.
Kenneth Moses is a forensics expert. He helped install automated
fingerprint systems in California.
Mr. Moses, the FBI is saying this isn't human error; it's a rare
case of this technology failing.
Mr. KENNETH MOSES (Director, Forensic Identification Services): That
makes a lot of sense 'cause, in fact, these systems are what they
call `lights out.' There is no human interaction in the
identification process. The computer does the search and then
decides whether or not there is the match or not.
BLOCK: And when the system fails, why does it fail?
Mr. MOSES: Well, none of these systems are 100 percent accurate.
They only reach into the high 90s. When I started designing these
systems, they were in the 70s, so they've improved quite a bit, but
you're never going to get to 100 percent.
BLOCK: Now in those times that it does miss, what's going wrong?
What's the computer not recognizing?
Mr. MOSES: The most common reason is the quality of the database;
that is if it's searching for a particular person and that person's
prints were taken, say, five or six years ago by some jailor in a
local community, and he didn't do a careful job or he smeared the
prints, that's what they receive at the FBI. If the database print
on a person is very bad, the computer will miss it.
BLOCK: When the fingerprints are entered into the system and the
computer starts doing its work of matching, what's it doing exactly?
How is it making those matches?
Mr. MOSES: Well, what it does is the computer will scan each finger
with the line--dot of light. And what it's looking for is where the
fingerprint ridges, the little black lines that make up the
fingerprint--what they do besides going on unbroken. So if they stop
all of a sudden, like you have a dead end, it will mark that point.
If one ridge forms into two, it'll mark that point. And in any
fingerprint there's probably in excess of 50 to 100 of these points.
And once it has those points, it joins the dots together like
geometry, and it makes a geometric figure which becomes the
BLOCK: Now in this case, in the case of Mr. Jones, apparently the
image was a digital image. It was taken fairly recently. Any way of
knowing how good a print that might have been?
Mr. MOSES: Well, without looking at it, you don't know, but the fact
that it's digital doesn't mean it's accurate. For instance, if you
just roll your own finger on the desk, if you move that finger,
slide it or push down too hard or not hard enough, even a digital
image will be less than ideal. Now there's a wide range of tolerance
that the computer has for poor-quality fingerprints. After all,
there are 10 fingers, and all you need is a couple of them good to
make a match. But if it's a very poor-quality set of prints, it will
miss. And once it misses, it then assumes this is the first time
this person's been arrested, and it will assign--the computer will
assign it a new criminal identification number, which is what
BLOCK: Given the system the way it is now, what could be done to
make it better? What's the thinking of ways to improve the matching
Mr. MOSES: Well, one way on the computer end is to make it more
tolerant of poor fingerprints. And let's say if it searches a couple
of fingers and they're bad, it keeps trying to find clear parts of
any finger that might be good. But to tweak it that much would
probably cost millions of dollars. You're probably better off
focusing on the local level, to improve training and to improve the
taking of fingerprints to begin with.
BLOCK: There are critics, of course, who, especially in the criminal
justice system, say we've just become too reliant on these
fingerprint matches, that they're not reliable.
Mr. MOSES: These fingerprint systems have increased the safety of
everybody in society. When I was starting out, before we had these
computers, we missed people all the time doing manual searches.
People would be arrested, we'd take their fingerprints and manually
search them. And by the time the searches came back from the state
or federal government, it may be four to six weeks. Meanwhile, this
guy's out and about. You compare that to today, where you get a
fingerprint match in minutes. These people are still standing there
when you find out who they really are and that they have warrants in
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Moses, thanks for talking with us today.
Mr. MOSES: My pleasure.
From the Webmaster:
Fingerprint Image Quality and AFIS results
Ask any latent print examiner and they will tell you; fingerprint
quality affects the ability to make a match. Ask any ten-print
examiner and they will likely tell you exactly the same thing.
Every day, tens of thousands of automated ten-print search
transactions are conducted in AFIS systems across the country.
What is not so apparent is the complex processes that take place
behind the scenes that allow computer technology to grind through so
many searches so quickly.
AFIS systems were initially designed from the same characteristics
human examiners look at. Most AFIS systems still classify
patterns in terms of arches, loops, and whorls. Some look at
the over-all ridge flow and use neighboring areas of this flow to
eliminate prints that don't match. For example, in a
right-slant loop pattern, the ridges just down and to the right of
the core flow down and out of the pattern to the right. On the
other hand, the ridges in that same area of a left slope loop or a
whorl pattern flow down and to the left. The fact that there
ridge direction maps in the same corresponding area of two
fingerprints can be used to eliminate potential candidates
in a repository of subjects without even comparing bifurcations and
Another "level 1" characteristic some AFIS systems (IAFIS for
example) use to eliminate candidates before actual minutia
comparisons occur is the ridge counts of the pattern. A window
of opportunity exists when ridge counts of a search print are
compared against the ridge counts of a file print. If the same
pattern is no more than a few ridges off, they are accepted as a
potential candidate. If this happens with nine out of ten
fingers, then the minutia of that subject is used for comparison in
the next (and much more accurate) phase of processing.
However, most of the "misses" on an AFIS system never make it to
that final phase. Especially in prints of poor quality, AFIS
often cannot accurately determine the ridge counts or pattern types
of all the fingers. Although there are some allowances built
in, sometimes these just aren't enough. IAFIS is built to
reject prints of extremely low quality. However, occasionally
a set of prints will just barely make it through the initial quality
filter, but will be assigned inaccurate level 1 classification
features. In the cases where these level 1 mis-classifications
are too far off, the correct candidate would not
be passed on to the next phase of matching. After the level 1
filters weed out the vast majority of candidates, the most
processor-intensive phase of AFIS comparison begins. The
relative position of minutia is compared in the final phase, but if
the prints drop off in earlier phases, they are never given an
opportunity to match in the final phase.
In this sense, the elimination of ten-print candidates is a
"lights-out" process as Mr. Moses mentions. However, most of
the ten-print identifications are still manually identified by
ten-print examiners at FBI CJIS division.
Ideally, every set of fingerprints would go straight to the most
accurate type of searching possible. However, current
limitations on the processing power necessary to achieve this high
level of accuracy prevent this from happening. In fact, less
than one hundredth of one percent usually make it to the final
phase. With 50,000 ten-prints searches a day, against a
repository of 50 million ten-print records, it is easy to understand
why this balance between accuracy and resources must exist in the
world's largest fingerprint repository.
Related to latent print examination, this scenario of not being
passed through initial pattern classification filters would be like
an examiner who observes a strangely distorted latent print and
doesn't even seriously
consider the correct print as a possible candidate. In this
scenario, they wouldn't even put the glass down on it because they
would think there was no way it even matched on level 1 detail...
like comparing a whorl to a loop. But many of us have seen
those types of prints in our career... that latent print that was
the left side of a right slope loop... and we didn't even look twice
at the double-loop whorl in the right thumb, and missed it.
AFIS has the same difficulty.
Although misses are extremely unfortunate, as evident by the
consequences of the Jeremy Brian Jones miss, the alternative
involves upgraded algorithms and more (and faster) processors so
more prints go on to minutia processing without causing undue delays
in transaction time. In a system like IAFIS this is a major
process change, but it is already scheduled. The requirements for
"Next Generation" IAFIS are already being worked on within the FBI,
and the contract will be awarded in the next few years.
In the mean time, the law enforcement community should be actively
pursuing the most accurate repository possible to continually boost
over-all accuracy of AFIS systems. This involves adhering to or
exceeding the FBI minimum requirements for image quality, using FBI
certified equipment to capture fingerprints, adhering to best
practices when taking inked fingerprints, and being sure to get
completely rolled fingerprints with as little smudging as possible.
If a live-scan system gives a "reject" notice for fingerprint
quality, officers in some agencies will over-ride this warning and
send the poor quality prints anyway. Likewise, some jailers
consider the taking of inked prints to be a menial duty and don't
devote much effort to recording quality rolled impressions.
These and other shoddy practices should be identified and eliminated
when possible so that we continue to build a quality repository for
the future of law enforcement. To miss even a single
opportunity in a "minor" offense to take good quality prints could result in the next
Jeremy Brian Jones case in your state.
message board is always open: (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2).
For more formal latent print discussions, visit
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