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The Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is a computer system that processes and searches latent fingerprints through a ten print database. The ten-print database is compiled from the ten print cards that are submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) by all law enforcement agencies throughout the state of North Carolina. Utilizing the AFIS system, latent fingerprints from crime scenes may be searched through the state AFIS database and an identification of the suspect may be achieved. There are currently over 1 million fingerprint cards in the state database, which translates into over 10 million fingerprints that can be searched.

The main goal of the AFIS section is identification, whether the identification is a person, a fingerprint, a palm print or a footwear impression. Digital imaging systems, photography, alternate light sources and the AFIS system are utilized to achieve this goal. We assist the detectives and officers of the law enforcement community in identifying perpetrators and solving crimes.

The purpose of the AFIS section is to provide assistance to the contributing agencies in analyzing, comparing, searching and identifying persons, latent fingerprints, palm prints and footwear impression evidence. The AFIS section’s three main contributing agencies are the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and the Greensboro and High Point Police Departments. The section also accepts priority cases from the surrounding counties of Alamance, Caswell, Randolph and Rockingham. The three-person unit has been operating for the county since March 1994.

Fingerprints are used as a positive means of identification because fingerprints are permanent and unique. No two persons have the same fingerprints. The first step in submitting a fingerprint through AFIS is latent entry. This is the process where the fingerprint image is captured, the fingerprint minutiae (ridge characteristics) are plotted, descriptive data is entered, and the fingerprint is sent to the database to be searched. A respondent list of possible matches of the latent print to the ten-print database is returned. The latent fingerprint is then visually compared to the respondents’ fingerprints and a positive identification or a non-identification is made. If a positive identification or “hit” is made, the inked ten-print card of the suspect is located and a manual comparison of the

inked fingerprint to the latent fingerprint is done and the identification from AFIS is verified. So far, AFIS has identified over 1,800 suspects. The State Bureau of Investigation has upgraded the main AFIS system and latent palm prints can now be searched and identified through the AFIS system in the same manner as fingerprints.

Footwear impression evidence left at a crime scene can also be compared by the AFIS unit. Photographs or lifts of the unknown footwear impressions can be compared to the suspects’ shoes. A positive identification of a footwear impression can place the suspect at the scene of the crime.