Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fingerprints and ships

There's good news and bad news, as they say.

The good news is that port security is taking another step forward along U.S. coasts, and one measure of that is increased identification requirements and background checks for those driving trucks into and out of port facilities. This hasn't come about without argument, but that's not the bad news.

The bad news is that all across the U.S., we aren't putting the resources needed into fingerprinting. The result is that thousands of criminals who could be identified by prints are not being caught, the ones who are being arrested are too often not fingerprinted, and the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and State Department do not have fingerprint systems that are interoperable.

Any background check is only as good as the database it's checked against. Think about this -- if the person driving a truck into a port committed a crime involving explosives and was not fingerprinted, the usefulness of background checks and identity checks is limited. If police departments believe they can no longer afford to collect fingerprints at crime scenes, if several incompatible systems are being used, then we're missing important information in these databases.

Photo above courtesy of Digiology, from morguefile.com

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