Massachusetts state police have seen a sevenfold spike in the last decade of people arrested with mutilated fingertips, a disturbing trend they said reflects dire efforts to evade the harsher punishments that come with multiple arrests, to avoid deportation, or to fool the increasingly sophisticated computers that do most fingerprint checks, says the Boston Globe. Since 2002, when state police started to keep count of suspects with deliberately scarred fingerprints, they have recorded 72 arrests, 20 of which occurred last year. There were just three when they began keeping records.
“It's definitely an increasing phenomenon,”' said Detective Lieutenant Kenneth Martin, commanding officer of the division that oversees fingerprint analysis of crime scenes. “We've seen it all: self-inflicted mutilation, surgical efforts to cut out the core of fingers, and having the skin stitched back in strange ways.'' In the last month, federal and local officers in the area have made multiple arrests in three separate cases involving people who sought to hide their identity by trying to erase their fingerprints. While authorities have had some successes in identifying those with mutilated fingerprints, most have not been identified. Indeed, of the recorded arrests this decade in Massachusetts, only 17 percent were positively identified by matching their scuffed fingerprints with previously recorded prints.