Forensic expertise and the exchange of forensic data is vital to international investigations.
At INTERPOL, we maintain databases of fingerprints and DNA profiles, allowing police across the world to make connections between criminals and crime scenes. We also provide training to police in our member countries, to ensure that frontline officers have the knowledge and skills necessary to assess, preserve and share evidence in line with best practices.
Fingerprint evidence plays a crucial role in criminal investigations. Since a person’s fingerprints are unique and do not change during the course of their life, they can be used to quickly and efficiently confirm or disprove a person’s identity, for example, in checking a suspect at a border crossing.
In addition, finger marks can be collected at a crime scene and have the potential to link a series of crimes together, or to place a suspect at the scene. Fingerprints play an equally important role in identifying victims following a disaster such as a cyclone, earthquake, bombing or other attack.
INTERPOL's fingerprints database
At INTERPOL, we manage a database of fingerprints, containing more than 189,000 fingerprint records (as of December 2013).
Authorized users in member countries can view, submit and cross-check fingerprint records using I-24/7, INTERPOL’s secure global police communications network, via a user-friendly automatic fingerprint identification system (AFIS).
Law enforcement officers can either take fingerprints using an electronic device or can take them manually using ink and paper then use a special scanner to save the data electronically in the appropriate format. They then submit the data to the INTERPOL General Secretariat to be uploaded to the database. Records are saved and exchanged in the format set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
We actively encourage member countries to use the database as extensively as possible, in accordance with INTERPOL's Rules on the Processing of Data, and increase the number of relevant fingerprints in the system.
In order to assist member countries improve the quality and quantity of fingerprint records submitted to INTERPOL AFIS, we have prepared two documents: Guidelines concerning Fingerprints Transmission and Guidelines concerning transmission of Fingerprint Crime Scene Marks.
In 2013, we made more than 1,200 identifications as a result of increased data sharing and comparison by member countries.
The INTERPOL Fingerprint Unit provides a service called AFIS gateway, which allows member countries to submit remotely a fingerprint search (INT-I compliant file) against the INTERPOL AFIS database and receive an automated response. We implemented in 2010 a new AFIS which is capable of searching and filing palm prints and latent palm marks.
Automated ten-print verification has been introduced, along with a high-volume search facility that allows more than 1,000 comparisons per day against the INTERPOL fingerprint database which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sharing best practice
An International Fingerprint Symposium takes place every two years. Attended by the Heads of National Fingerprint Bureaus, INTERPOL representatives and private companies, it provides an opportunity for experts from around the world to share best practice and latest developments.
In addition to the Symposium, INTERPOL organizes an AFIS experts’ working group. This takes place twice a year and is a forum for discussing new technology, identification procedures and training needs, and for ensuring that INTERPOL’s systems comply with the necessary standards.
The group has agreed the INTERPOL Implementation of ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2007: access version 5.03 here (dated 7 April 2011).
Every two years INTERPOL organizes an International Symposium on Fingerprints. The three-day event is attended by delegates from all INTERPOL regions while leading AFIS vendors are also invited to present the latest developments in AFIS technology.
- INTERPOL conference hears fingerprint technology advances key in combating transnational crime (27 April 2012)
- Minutes from the 6th Symposium, April 2010
- Minutes from the 5th Symposium, June 2008