IAFIS and IDENT: Government BFF’s

IAFIS and IDENT: Government BFF's

In the past, federal and local law enforcement agencies were like oil and water. They didn’t mix. There was no sharing of information and no real cooperation among agencies. And there was certainly no love lost between the two (Picture Rush Limbaugh in a room with President Obama. Yeah, that bad.). But not passing along vital information wasn’t a problem that existed just between the locals and the feds. Not at all. Those three letter federal agencies were just as tight-lipped with each other. And that’s a problem when it comes to catching bad guys.

But in the wake of  9-11 things changed. Officials quickly realized the importance of information sharing. Officer’s lives depended on it. Civilian’s lives depended on it. And the security of our country depended on it. And a good thing to begin sharing was vital information about criminals. After all, that’s common ground, right? All law enforcement agencies are after the crooks, so what do all crooks have in common that could/should be shared among LEO’s (law enforcement officers)? You guessed it…fingerprints and criminal histories.

Nearly everyone has heard of IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System). That’s the national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the FBI. In fact, IAFIS is home to the fingerprint and criminal history records of more than 66 million people/suspects. What you may not know is that IAFIS also includes mugshots, tattoo and scar information, and the prints of those who serve or have served in the U.S. military.

IAFIS response time can be as fast as ten minutes for criminal cases, and perhaps as long as an hour or so for civil inquiries. The system responds to over 160,000 requests each and every day.

Okay, that’s IAFIS. Now, for IDENT (Automated Biometric Identification System). IDENT was first used in 1989 by INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) as a means to collect and transmit data, such as fingerprints, date of birth, nationality, and photographs, in real time.


Mobile Fingerprint Reader

The data collected for IDENT is normally gathered from persons whose citizenship status may be questionable, terrorists, or those persons involved in crimes/cases worked by ICE, Border Patrol, and other government agencies charged with protecting the U.S borders (Department of Homeland Security).

So, seeing the need to “compare notes,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  have integrated the two systems. Now a check of a suspect’s prints, background, immigration and previous deportation status, etc. can be conducted in a timely manner. In the past, many suspects who were wanted for crimes by other agencies simply slipped through the cracks.

In the first four months of 2010, IDENT produced over 73,000 hits, or matches, of a suspect to a print in the system. As a result , nearly 3,000 illegal immigrants were removed from the U.S. during the month of January 2010 alone. Of that group nearly 500 had been charged or convicted of serious and/or violent crimes in the U.S.

The combined system is working well and will only improve as time goes on. Other agencies have begun sharing information and are experiencing similar results. Local law enforcement and the feds are finally working together on many projects.

And, for now, IAFIS and IDENT are BFF’s (best friends forever). OMG…


Two more BFF’s.

1 reply
  1. Gerrie Ferris Finger
    Gerrie Ferris Finger says:

    Hi Lee, Thanks for the info. It dovetails into my fourth in the Dru/Lake series (THE END GAME) wherein a college girl changes her identity, not once, but many times.
    By the way, love the two BFFs. They could be Buddy and his handler in THE END GAME. I get more questions about Buddy’s
    and Jed’s return in the series than any other characters.
    My best to you, your family, friends, followers and readers – and that’s a lot – in the New Year.

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