FBI deploys fingerprint system for mobile devices

The FBI has begun deploying a mobile system nationwide that enables police officers to check the fingerprints of suspects at the scene to learn if they are wanted for other serious crimes or are on a national list of high-risk offenders, FBI officials announced today.

The new Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) is part of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. RISC has been tested in Texas, Florida and several other states for two years and is now being implemented nationwide, FBI officials said in a statement.

The goal is to help police officers on the street identify possible risks presented by people and suspects encountered during traffic stops and other situations.


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RISC allows thousands of state and local police officers to capture and submit images of fingerprints using mobile devices, officials said.

The NGI system compares the fingerprints against a registry of 2.5 million sets of fingerprints of wanted persons, known or “appropriately suspected” terrorists, Sex Offender Registry subjects and others, said Kevin Reid, program manager for NGI.

The database is designed to include individuals who are repeat offenders of the most serious crimes, considered the nation's "worst of the worst," he said.

The automated matching process sends a response to the officer in about 10 seconds, Reid added.

Although many states and communities have deployed mobile devices for fingerprint checks, those devices were only capable of checking local and state databases. RISC uses a national database, which can help identify individuals wanted for serious crimes in other states.

In the pilot program, RISC has been used more than 500,000 times with a 6.6 percent response rate indicating that an individual has outstanding warrants or is considered to be a high-risk offender, Reid said.

“The usage [and] the successes we have seen with the program have been phenomenal,” Reid said.

In a typical scenario, a police officer stops a vehicle for an apparent violation and notices that the driver is extremely nervous. The driver might present false identification or no identification. With the previous FBI fingerprint system, checks could be made for outstanding warrants. But beyond that, running a fingerprint check was a long and arduous process that took several hours.

In Houston, the RISC program has successfully been used to identify and capture suspects wanted for sexual assault and other serious crimes, FBI officials said. In one case, a suspect was pulled over for a seatbelt violation and could not produce identification. The officer used the driver’s fingerprints to identify him and locate an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a sexual assault charge.

The FBI began initial operation of NGI in March. It now supports 18,000 law enforcement agencies 24 hours a day.

NGI is being phased in to replace the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which has been in use since 1999. The new system is designed to be faster and more accurate than its predecessor.

The RISC deployment, which is the third of seven scheduled deployments in the Next Generation system, met its schedule and budget targets, Reid said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Sep 7, 2011

If you read the article, they are not taking the fingerprints, they are comparing them with a database of wanted persons, KST's and sex offenders registered with the Sex Offender Registry. Do you want a sex offender moving next to you and not registering (as they are required by law whenever they move to a new location)?

Mon, Aug 29, 2011 Dataman Las Vegas

Hmmm, 1/3 of the population of New York. How about we wall in Manhattan, turn it into a high security prision... Oh wait, that's already been done, Escape from New York. No offense, NY, just kidding!

Mon, Aug 29, 2011

John, actually it is against the law to not produce identification, and failure to do so is enough to warrant a law enforcement officer to detain you (and use a device described above) until your identity is verified.

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 earth

Holy …. Batman. 2.5 million of the “Worst of the Worst” are on the streets!!!
That’s pretty scary. But assuming you caught all of them, do we have a prison big enough to hold 2.5 million high security prisoners. That’s about a third of the population of NYC.

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 John Yaralian Armenia

This is very strange. To compare fingerprints of anyone the law enforcement officer would need to obtain the suspect's fingerprints first. To my knowledge this is prohibited in the US. Fingerprinting citizens is only acceptable once they have been charged with a crime. As far as I know a traffic stop does not qualify as such. So how will the authorities justify taking someone's fingerprints for a simple traffic stop? Or are the authorities hoping no one will realize how their gadget works?

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