Go Inside FBI's Crime Fighting Lab


UPDATED: Friday July 17, 2009 6:21 PM

Sitting on 1,000 well-patrolled acres is a highly secure location that houses 60 million sets of fingerprints.

CrimeTracker 10's Angela An went inside the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services building located four hours from Columbus.

The FBI's massive underground, multi-billion dollar computer system is the size of two football fields.  Its mission is to connect criminals to crimes around the U.S.

SLIDESHOW: Inside The Lab

"On the criminal side, we have identified about 15,000 wanted people per month that are arrested," said Jerry Pender, the assistant acting director of the FBI's CJIS.

According to Pender, his agency processes 600 billion individual fingerprint transaction comparisons per day.

In recent years, fingerprints matched by the FBI came from a beer can, a VCR and a gun clip.   They helped Franklin County prosecutors convict three murderers in different cases, An reported.

In April, a fingerprint that was left on a wall linked the accused Craigslist killer to another attack against a woman in Boston. 

As technology advances, the process of finding criminals is getting faster.  With wireless fingerprint scanners, images are captured instantaneously at the scene of a crime and results come back in roughly seven seconds.

Some of the new technology is being used halfway around the world with a device called the quick capture platform.  With a laptop and portable scanner, FBI agents embedded with American troops overseas can quickly identify potential suspects.

According to the FBI, latent prints from improvised explosive devices are checked against tens of thousands of suspected or known terrorists in the database.

The equipment is also used at homeland borders across the U.S.

"We work closely with the U.S. Visit program and they're checking people as they cross at the ports of entry against our system," Pender said.

The technology continues to be developed.  The FBI is now adding biometrics to its fingerprint database from iris scans to facial recognition, as part of the FBI's Next Generation Identification program.

Students at West Virginia in nearby Morgantown are helping to develop the NGI program.

"It's a big change," said Dr. Keith Morris of West Virginia University's forensics department.  "With technology, it introduces new challenges as well."

According to Morris, one challenge is identifying a face from different angles.  His students are now developing programs that would compensate for the various images taken when a criminal is caught on camera.

NGI will also create the first ever nationwide palm print system.  Along with finger and palm prints, tattoos will also become searchable. 

"I go home every day feeling like I'm making a difference," Pender said.  "We're doing things here improving the security of our country, both criminal types of issues as well as counter terrorism issues."
The FBI CJIS center in Clarksburg also houses 600,000 fingerprints from unknown criminals who have yet to be found.

Any FBI background check performed on local teachers, counselors or day care workers are also checked through the 60 million print database, An reported.

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