New FBI Fingerprint Technology Helping Police Solve Cold Cases


New FBI technology, including a sharper fingerprint identification system, is helping police resolve cold cases, such as the 1997 slaying of a teenage runaway from Chicago’s suburbs whose alleged killer was charged with the crime this month, reports the Chicago Tribune. The federal agency’s Next Generation Identification system sounds like the name of a futuristic crime show. In some ways, it resembles one, with cutting-edge advances rolled out over the past few years. Investigators credit the technology with helping to identify James Eaton, 36, of Palatine, Il., as a suspect in the rape and killing of Amber Creek, 14, whose remains were found in a remote Wisconsin area.

Eaton’s name had never come up as a potential suspect until this year, when his fingerprints were processed through the new system, which authorities say has a 99.6 percent matching accuracy rate. “We do have this newer technology out there and have seen great success,” said Meghan Jones of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Last year, her office began running older crime scene fingerprints through the system — including the set found to match Eaton’s — as part of a cold case project. Some critics raise privacy concerns about the FBI’s efforts to enhance suspect and victim identification through iris scans, palm prints, facial features and voice data. Experts use mathematical equations to represent characteristics of fingerprints, allowing them to be searchable in a computer database.

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