Troutman PD teaches Scouts about fingerprinting
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Local Boy Scouts Jacob Burnett and Kade Baltich of Mooresville’s Troop 157, accompanied by Merit Badge Counselor Derick Baltich, visited the Troutman Police Department on Thursday afternoon to learn about fingerprinting as they worked on earning their merit badges.
“Not one fingerprint is alike,” explained Detective Sergeant Corey Richard, who proceeded to teach them fingerprinting methods and how to examine the differences in the unique ridges in each print using a magnifying glass.
“A lot people think they can change their fingerprints by burning them or filing them off. Even if you get a cut, it still going to grow back exactly the same, with perhaps a small ridge there,” Richard said.
Finger printing has both civil and criminal uses. Many job applicants are fingerprinted and undergo background job-checks today. Criminals are also fingerprinted at the time of arrest. All fingerprints are entered in a large computer database, Richard explained.
Some places now use digital fingerprinting rather than the inking technique, Richard added. “When we take people to the county jail, we roll their fingers flat on a computer screen and it maps everything out. Then an electronic copy goes to the FBI and SBI. That’s where it’s stored forever.”
“The old school ink prints to me are still the better ones,” Richard noted, “but the digital is nice and keeps hands clean.” Paper prints are digitally scanned into the law enforcement databases as well.
When law enforcement enters collected crime scene prints into the system, the computer compares specific fingerprint points to those in the database to help identify a possible suspect.
The larger job applicant fingerprint form requires prints of each finger, thumbs and then the four fingers together. Other details, such as name, address, personal appearance, and other information is also required on the form.
Richard explained that the subjects’ hands and fingers must be relaxed to get a good impression. After inking the finger, the officer starts places the side of the fingertip on the square and then continuously rolls it to the other side for a full print.
Kade, who attends Langtree Charter, and Jacob, who goes to Brawley Middle, were each fingerprinted by Richard to learn the technique and then got to practice fingerprinting each other.
After both completed their turns, Richard had them examine the prints with a magnifying glass. “You see the different ridges and how they come up? That’s what makes it unique to you. Everybody’s is different. Some people have swirls, some people have loops. There’s about six different kinds, if I remember correctly.”
He also explained that officers also use DNA, which everyone constantly sheds, from crime scenes to identify suspects, but fingerprint analysis is much quicker and less expensive. DNA analysis takes at least two weeks.
Troutman Police Chief Matthew Selves also dropped into the session. He told the Scouts that law enforcement often also takes palm prints, which are are also unique, from criminal suspects.
Selves also explained fingerprints at crime scenes are made from oil and dirt that accumulate in the fingers’ friction ridges throughout the day. Fingerprints last for a long time on smooth surfaces, added Selves, though they are difficult to collect on more porous surfaces.
Selves also noted that when the fingerprints from a crime scene are entered into the system, they continue to be checked as new fingerprints enter the system, so a person could be arrested for a crime from years before once the prints are matched in the database.