Justice Department Partnership Finds More Than 300 Unidentified Persons Through Fingerprint Analysis

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs recently announced an important milestone reached through a partnership between OJP’s National Institute of Justice and the FBI.

The collaborative effort to match unidentified persons’ fingerprints to biometric and criminal history information made its 300th identification in March 2021.

“This latest milestone affirms the essential role that forensic science plays in solving crimes and ensuring public safety,” said NIJ Acting Director Jennifer Scherer. “Our partnership with the FBI continues to yield impressive results in the face of daunting investigative challenges, establishing identities out of the thinnest of evidence and delivering long-awaited answers to families of the missing, often after years of anguish and uncertainty.”

In February 2017, NIJ’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons (NamUs) program and the FBI Laboratory began searching unidentified persons’ fingerprints through the FBI’s NextGeneration Identification System (NGI). The NGI system is the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information and enables analysis of poor-quality entries in the FBI’s fingerprint database, allowing more focused searches and increasing the likelihood of identification, even with prints that have been searched many times in the past.

NamUs is currently the only national database of cases involving unidentified persons, with currently over 13,638 cases.

FBI Acting Assistant Director Eric Pokorak of the Laboratory Division said, “The FBI Laboratory is proud of our partnership with NIJ, the critical forensic support we provide toNAMUS, and through that collaboration offering a degree of solace to the loved ones of the missing.”

Since then, 2,647 fingerprint cards have been examined, resulting in the current total of312 identifications, many of which are cold case homicide investigations. Of that number, 34were homicide victims, and another 83 are undetermined cases which may be homicides.

In one recent case, an unidentified person’s prints were of such poor quality that they could not previously be submitted for fingerprint searches. Using NGI, the decedent was identified as a migrant worker, and the process of finding Next of Kin was started. Had the card not been uploaded into NamUs, the person would have gone unidentified indefinitely.

More information about NamUs and the FBI Latent Print Support Unit can be found at www.namus.gov and https://www.fbi.gov/services/laboratory/biometric-analysis/latent-print, respectively.

Information about the National Institute of Justice is available at www.nij.gov.

Recommended Posts