The Forensics/Latent Print Unit is part of our Criminal Investigations Division. We have two part-time latent print examiners who review and evaluate latent print evidence using various techniques including physical, chemical and photographic examination. Our latent print examiners follow strict protocols in the handling of fingerprint evidence to ensure chain of custody and to protect the integrity of case files which are critical for the successful prosecution of cases.
In 2015, 144 cases were received by the latent print unit. 105 of these were determined to have latent prints of sufficient value for further examination. Of those 105 cases examined, we were able to identify the person associated with the print in half (53) of the cases.
Next Generation Identification (NGI)
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office uses Next Generation Identification (NGI). NGI is a computer system maintained by the FBI that contains the largest fingerprint database in the world. NGI is invaluable in the identification of fingerprints found at crime scenes such as burglaries, thefts, mail fraud, car break-ins and other major crimes. A latent print found at a crime scene can be entered into the NGI computer system. It will then be compared with millions of known prints in the NGI database. If a match or near-hit is located, the latent print examiner will conduct further examinations to confirm the NGI match. In the past three years, this system has assisted JCSO in solving approximately 45 crimes that otherwise would have gone cold.
Alternate Light Source (ALS)
JCSO also utilizes what is referred to as an Alternate Light Source (ALS) which most major Crime Laboratories have and use on a daily basis. The ALS is normally used in the lab, but is portable and can be taken to a crime scene. The ALS is a great tool for photographing very small items which are hard to visualize in normal lighting conditions such as hair, fibers, dye-stained fingerprints and body fluids. Fingerprint evidence developed through this system is then submitted to the NGI system to be searched through the FBI fingerprint data base in hopes of identifying the person who committed the crime. The ALS is another tool that helps to increase the probability of developing latent prints to solve more cases.
Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD)
Our Latent Print Unit recently obtained a new piece of forensic equipment to help us fight crime. The Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD) unit uses vaporized metal in a vacuum to display fingerprints left on items. The VMD helps examiners see fingerprints on clothing and on items that have been submerged in water, something the standard “super glue” method cannot do. Our latent print examiners recently attended specialized training for the VMD because this machine has some very technical components and specific methodologies required for proper use.
Our Forensic/Latent Print Unit strives to stay abreast of cutting edge technologies in their field. They work diligently to maintain the high standards required to help solve crimes that affect our community.
Thank you for your support.
Captain Tim Snaith