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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