FBI Seeks Info on Tattoos, Gang Symbols For Its National Database


The FBI wants your tattoos–more specifically, the meanings behind their inky black lines and colorful shapes–and it’s asking local law-enforcement agencies for help, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence, which collects tattoos and other identity markers in its massive database, last month asked police agencies for information “related to any current databases containing tattoo/symbol images, their possible meanings, gang affiliations, terrorist groups or other criminal organizations.”

Gang members and terrorist groups often share symbols among their followers as a way to identify one another easily and gauge member loyalty. Members of the Latin Kings, for example, illustrate their bodies with a crown, while members of the MS-13 gang usually tattoo “MS” on their skin. Other symbols are more cryptic. FBI agents say combining their database with information gathered from tattoo databases at more than 18,000 law-enforcement agencies could improve everyone’s biometric-based crime-fighting and anti-terrorism efforts. “Some of our database users have expressed a desire for [knowing] what tattoos may potentially mean,” said Bill Casey, program director at the FBI’s biometric center. “We are trying to learn the lay of the land and see if there are any databases out there agencies may want to share.”

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