Fingerprints are key crimefighting weapon

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 13, 2002

No two individuals are exactly alike, a fact that’s not always obvious.

Even if two people are identical twins or relatives who bear a strong resemblance to one another, there are some things that just are not the same.

One of the things that makes us unique is our fingerprints. No two people share the same fingerprints.

Email newsletter signup

The detailed ridges covering the fingers and palm of a person’s hand forms a unique structure that can identify you from anyone else – even identical twins.

In criminal cases, fingerprints can be critical in determining whether or not an individual could have possibly been at a particular place.

Certified latent fingerprint examiner Sue Manci, employed with the Mobile-based Alabama Department of Forensic Science, said the process of comparing prints recovered from a crime scene can either be easy or complex, depending on the quality of the print.

Once prints are lifted and placed on a three by five index card, Manci said, a comparison is made with a particular individual, or individuals, prints.

Some countries require comparison identifications to match a certain number of points of the prints in comparison, others do not.

The United States is one of the countries that leaves the decision up to the expert.

But what they all do have in common, Manci acknowledged, is the actual magnification comparison process.

Only if a print is &uot;distorted&uot; Manci said, will it be harder to conduct the comparison, and although a whole print is better for comparison, partial prints can still be matched depending on their clarity.

But even if there are no prints, that does not prove one’s innocence.

Photographs, interviews and other techniques can also be used to gather evidence to assist authorities in solving a crime.

There is no way to tell if a print is old or new. Dusting for fingerprints works better on fresh impressions. After an extended amount of time, other methods are used to retrieve impressions.