Tag Archives: DNA


A3Imagine information straight from crime scenes biometrically feeding a super-computing, multimodal system of collaborating human identification techniques. A futuristic system beyond IAFIS, the longstanding Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. A new system with hyper-integrated, next generation, biometric database identifiers of laser-scanned tenprints, palmprints, iris and retina recordings, facial recognition, voice printing, tattoo banking, and instantaneous DNA profile matching. An amazing algorithmic system of centralized surveillance. A fantastic system favoring the police.

A4Imagine the cop on the street with a handheld device imaging your eye, searching your face, or scanning your index finger, then uploading via iPhone to the next generation system that searches, identifies, and reports within seconds. Imagine a system with a repository on persons of special concerns—murderers, rapists, and terrorists—that tracks their chip and their criminal life-cycle from the commission of crime to the correctional center.

Think it’s imaginary? Well, it’s not. It’s here. It’s active. And it’s expanding. It belongs to the FBI and it’s called the Next Generation Identification system. NGI for short.

On its website, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who administers the program, states:

F22“The NGI is the cornerstone that enables our Criminal Justice Information System, CJIS, to meet our growing an evolving mission and continue to build our reputation as a global biometrics leader. The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation, and implementation of advanced technology beyond the AIFIS environment.”

Wow! An ambitious goal Let’s look at how this 1.2 billion dollar baby works.

The NGI is already fully operational in its fingerprinting capacity and is incrementally phasing in other parts of the program in with these biological, biographical, and contextual categories:


220px-Fingerprints_of_Anna_Timiriova_3 (1)Conventional fingerprinting of arrested individuals involves rolling each of the ten digits from nail edge to nail edge as well as impressing ten flats. The “tenprints” were inked onto paper then scanned into AIFIS. The NGI allows real-time scanning and digital direct uploading. The NGI’s use of matching algorithms in its Advanced Fingerprint Identification Technology, AFIT, increased accuracy to 99.6% and its speed to under two minutes.



Previous systems did not include palmar impressions yet statistics show that partial palm prints account for over 30% of latents lifted at crime scenes. The NGI’s digital scanning, recording, and identifying palm prints are already having a huge impact in criminal identifications.


F3Latent” prints are technically those impressions that can’t be seen with the naked eye and are discovered by the use of amplifying powders, chemicals, and alternate light sources. The NGI lumps these in with “plastic” impressions—those impressed into a mold like wax or grease—and “patents” which are those visible on glass, for instance, and conventionally lifted with adhesive and fixed on slides. All questioned prints are now termed “latent”.

F1The NGI’s advanced matching algorithm technology has three times AIFIS’s capacity in identifying minute details and making identifications. Further, it has ten times the capacity to store unsolved latent prints and randomly searching newly inputted prints to clear cold cases.

Currently, the NGI’s Latent Branch is subdivided into the Criminal Master File, the Unsolved Latent File, and the Civil Repository.

Facial Recognition

A2The NGI system incorporates the Interstate Photo System (IPS) which catalogs millions of criminal mugshots as well as other identification photos like driver licenses and passports. The NGI is accessible through Universal Face Workstations where criminal photos are entered through desktop software and the results are immediately scanned and returned as “ranked candidate leads as investigational tools”. The system is expanding its capability to search facial recognition from public videos like cell phone and surveillance camera material.

Iris and Retina Identification

A5This technology was developed by the military and is incorporated in the NGI system as part of its integrated approach to criminal identification. Current prisoner processing will include iris/retina images recorded and entered into the NGI database. Additionally, patrolling police officers will be equipped with portable scanners to assist in identifying persons in public who cannot produce conventional identification. This mobile technology already exists as MORIS, the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, and is a mainstay with the NYPD.

Scars, Marks & Tattoos

A8The SMT Branch is another evolving arm of the NGI where criminal processing allows for images of tattoos, scars, and other markings on suspects to be collected and entered into the overall criminal profile. Technology allows for a search capacity in querying descriptive data in order to find stored images of potential matches.

DNA Database

Currently, all convicted felons of serious persons crimes are court ordered to provide their DNA profiles to authorities. The NGI will be the central repository of criminal DNA profiling with a tremendous search and match capability. This increment of the NGI is being phased-in.


Voice Printing

Recording and  recognizing human voice patterns is an emerging technology and a future project for the NGI program as it rolls out its ambitious program. This will be especially useful in identifying unknown speakers caught in electronic surveillance through bugs and wiretaps in terrorist and criminal investigations.


A10The Repository for Individuals of Special Concern area of the NGI allows a total packaged profile to be constructed for high-risk offenders, suspected terrorists, and other individuals of special concern. The RISC system is available 24/7/365 and has a response time of less than five seconds. Currently, the NGI’s RISC branch has over 5,000 requests per day from everywhere like street checks to airport security. Its average hit rate is 4.6%.

Think about this.

30 seconds. Tie a shoe. Wave hello. Send a text. Fasten your seatbelt. Kiss your child goodnight.

Now it only takes 30 seconds to identify a wanted fugitive through the Repository of Individuals of Special Concern.

Rap Back

A11The National Rap Back Service is the screening program for monitoring non-criminal issues like job applications for jobs of critical trust such as daycare workers, scout leaders, bank tellers, children’s sports coaches, teachers, and possibly even gynecologists. It also includes people who are under criminal justice supervision like parolees and probationers. Turnaround time for Rap Back reports are typically fifteen minutes and it processes thousands per day.

Tech Refresh

Upgrading and replacing existing software and hardware will be never ending in the struggle to implement the NGI at Federal, State, and Local investigation and enforcement agencies. It’s vital to the system’s success that end users are up to date and avoid quick obsolescence.

A12Beyond being a multimodal biometric identification database program, the NGI will also align with the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards that are being developed by NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These are credit-card sized pieces designed to be carried on your person and contain a chip encoded with your entire biometric profile—tenprints, palm prints, iris/retina image, SMTs, DNA profile, and your voice pattern. While elective for everyday citizens to apply to the program, soon PIV’s will be mandatory equipment for mobile felons.

A13So, the imaginary, fantastic world of biometric identification and super-computed, centralized civilian surveillance is here. In 2016.

Makes me wonder what’s coming in the future. I suspect a biometric chip surgically implanted into high-risk offenders that permanently identifies and GPS tracks their existence. We’ll know where they are. Who they’re with. And what they’ve done.

And, hopefully, stop what they’re about to do.


A3Genomics is the scientific study of the molecular instructions encoded in your cells.  It maps your entire genetic structure. Till now, forensic science has focused on only identifying your cell’s nuclei signature — your inner DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and, to a degree, your outer miDNA (mitochondrial DNA) — not your genes. The old method of forensically profiling your biological fingerprint by DNA analysis is being replaced by a computerized 3D genome recreation of your entire being.

A17Genomics is a concept first developed in the 1970’s. It led to the Human Genome Project (HGP) being completed in 2003. The HGP was a massive international research venture that sequenced and mapped all of the human cell genes — together known as the genome. The HGP gave us the ability to read nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being. Like you.

So what’s a genome?

A14A genome is the whole ensemble of your genetic material. It’s the molecular guide of your DNA, your chromosomes, and your genes that tells how to make your cells. It’s the instruction manual for your body. That book is your genome and the study of that book is termed genomics. It’s pretty much a math exercise. And it’s deadly stuff for identifying criminals with.

Let’s take a quick look at your biology.

A35Deoxyribonucleic acid is the chemical compound that contains the instructions to develop and direct your life as an organism. DNA molecules are made of two twisting, paired strands, often referred to as a double helix.

Each DNA strand is made of four chemical units, called nucleotide bases, which comprise the genetic “alphabet.” The bases are adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). Bases on opposite strands pair specifically — an A always pairs with a T — a C always pairs with a G. The order of the As, Ts, Cs, and Gs determines the meaning of the information encoded in that part of a DNA molecule. It’s just like the order of letters determine the meaning of a word, only DNA is written out in a barcode locus.

Every single cell in your body contains a complete copy of the 3.2 billion DNA base pairs, or letters, that code your human genome.

DNA’s four-letter language contains information needed to build your physical body. A gene refers to the unit of DNA that carries the instructions for making a specific protein, or set of proteins, and there’s 23,000 genes in your genome code. Each gene directs an average of three proteins.


If you could peer inside your cells, you’d see your genome contained in 46 tightly packed bundles of DNA — 23 came from your mother and 23 from your father. These DNA bundles, called chromosomes, provide instructions that enable a one-cell embryo to develop into a 100 trillion-cell adult. So, every time the human body produces a sperm or an egg, 3 billion DNA letters must be copied and packaged so they can be passed along to future offspring.

A31Humans come in many shapes and sizes, but we’re all very similar at the DNA level. In fact, the genomes of any two people are more than 99% the same. Still, the tiny fraction of the genome that varies among humans is critical when it comes to forensically identifying a particular individual. DNA variations are part of what makes each of us unique, but it’s in the genes that the real difference lies. They direct what you look like.

Okay. Enough of the biology lecture. How is genomics gonna catch some crooks?

It’s not just genomics. Science now has a great handle on how your DNA is formed and how your genes fine-tune your uniqueness. The problem has been in how to process a staggering forensic workload that has bottlenecked the crime labs and the courts — and how to put a face and a name to an unidentified DNA profile..

A26The answer lies in genomic computerization. The good news is that technological progress is being made faster than anyone ever dreamed possible. Now the labs are looking at your entire genome package for identification, not just at that little bit of nucleic or mitochondrial DNA which is dirty, volatile, and time-consuming stuff to process.

Advancements in computerized processing are allowing crime labs to build an entire picture of you as a suspect — not just an impersonal, academic graph of the matching points in either your biological evidence sample that you left behind at the scene, or your known reference sample that investigators obtained from you.

A2Think about how many cold cases there are where the investigators have a clear DNA profile of you as the perpetrator, but they have absolutely no clue what you look like. They have no idea whether you’re young or old, black or white, have green eyes or brown. They don’t know your hair color or texture. They don’t know if you’re tall or short. And, in some cases, they don’t know if you’re male or female.

Genomic profiling is going to change the game. Computers will speed it up. 

A25Illumina Corporation of San Diego is a world leader in Forensic Genomic technology. They’ve developed a process called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) that can simultaneously analyze every locus-point in a traditional DNA barcode using less than 1 nanogram of a sample in a fraction of traditional turn-around time that it’s currently taking.

Illumina is also at the forefront of developing the new cornerstone of contemporary forensic science — being able to generate a physical description of the DNA’s donor based on their genome profile.

A22Think about the ramifications. It’s not only going to assist in solving current cases. It’s going to give a physical look at the perpetrators of cold cases. Identify found remains with no names. Help in sorting disaster victims. And make accurate aging estimations for missing children.

The speed and accuracy of forensic genomic profiling will have far reaching effect on the costs in the criminal justice system. Faster and higher rates of identification will remove more dangerous offenders from society and the reliability of their forensic identifications will result in less trial time. It will reduce investigator workload in chasing blind leads. And it will, undoubtedly, save lives.

A29I think we’re in a fascinating time, watching technological advancements in forensic sciences. Genomic profiling is a fantastic breakthrough. We’re close to the day when your tiny biological dropping at the scene of your crime will go into a machine, the button pressed, and not just will your virtual mugshot come out — it’ll build a full-color, 3D image of your entire person right from your molecules to your moles.

Yes, science has come a long, long way in understanding how your human genome instruction book is written.

God knows who wrote it.


tech1Technology has made huge breakthroughs over the past thirty-five years that I’ve been around criminal and forensic investigation (CSI). Without question, the next thirty-five are going to bring mind-blowing advances. I’ve looked into my forensic crystal ball to come up with five things I think will be real by 2050.

But first… let’s look at the top five since 1980.

1. Computers

When I started policing, the PC was unheard of.

tech2The only computing system we had was a mammoth of a beast that filled-up many rooms at headquarters. CPIC, or the Canadian Police Information System, was in its infancy as was its American counterpart, NCIC or National Criminal Intelligence Center. Both systems are still around but, instead of having to phone to book appointments to use the system, the information now comes straight to the patrol cars or to a detective’s smart device.

Computers have affected every facet of forensic investigation.

Despite complex computerized analysis being fast and accurate, the routine is much easier. Report writing is far simpler – no more carbon paper to make multiple copies, no more white-out, and thank God for spell-check. Communications are instant with internet email and gone are the days of waiting for a report to show up in snail mail. Training is done through computerized simulation, sketching is replaced by computer-aided drawing, and administration is now done by the keyboard. Computers are what allowed the next four advances to occur.

2. AFIS – Automated Fingerprint Identification System

tech3The science of fingerprinting has been around nearly one hundred and fifty years, but the mechanism of storage and matching prints was cumbersome. Known prints from criminals used to be rolled in ink and stored on paper and the latent prints from crime scenes were lifted in powder were stored in plastic sheets. There was no effective system to easily match the two. Today, suspect prints are digitally scanned and stored in data bases. Latent prints are still lifted in conventional manners, but they’re then scanned and put into a search engine where they can be matched right from the crime scene.

3. Photography

tech4Today’s digital photography is a tremendous time-saver compared to the days of negative and image development. It’s instantaneous to share over the internet, even allowing an investigator to snap a digital photo in the field and email it to the other side of the world. Another facet of crime fighting is the incredible amount of mobile and stationary cameras that are out and about in society which capture movements of criminals before, during, and after events. Many crooks have gone down because they failed to realize they were on camera.

4. Education

tech5Today’s forensic investigators are far better educated than in the 1980’s. Much of that is due to the ease of which information can be shared. Where it used to take great blocks of time and huge resources to assemble courses and conferences, many agencies now use webinars and on-line presence to create ‘virtual’ classrooms. Education and sharing information are the jewels in crime-fighting.

5. DNA

tech13Deoxyribonucleic acid or genetic fingerprinting is probably the best crime-fighting tool ever developed. Today, thanks to the computer, the sophistication and expediency of DNA testing has led to it being commonly – and accurately – used in the majority of serious crime investigations. Many convictions have been secured on DNA evidence alone. Conversely, many innocent people have been cleared of suspicion due to elimination by DNA typing.

So that’s what happened over the past third century. Ever wonder what’s going to happen over the next third?

Well, I’m gazing into the crystal ball and predict five things.

1. Holograms

tech73-D technology is commonplace in movies and on TV. Many criminal prosecutions are already presented through computer-aided reconstruction to lay out the scene, bullet paths, vehicle motions, and blood-spatter patterns.

I see a day when virtual-reality holograms are imaged in the middle of the courtroom so the jurors can watch a total recreation of how the crime went down.

2. Brain-Scan Polygraphs

tech8Conventional polygraphs have only slightly evolved in three decades and that was by the replacement of the old ink-needle charts with laptop technology. The basics of polygraphy still depends on the ability of a skilled operator to formulate key questions and then interpret the subject’s involuntary body reactions – pulse, respiration, blood pressure, galvanic skin responses, and perspiration.

I see a day when brain mapping and analysis of how a subject responds under electroencephalography (EEG) and function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will replace the current polygraph. The technology is already here and research is underway towards its forensic application.

2. Laser Devices

tech9I think lasers have phenomenal potential in forensics. Currently, laser lighting is used to amplify fingerprint and tool marking evidence. It’s also used in ballistic matching where the old electron-scanning comparison microscopes are being replaced by laser/laptop examiners like the Bullettrax 3D which makes the peaks and valleys of a ballistic engraving show up like satellite ground mapping radar images.

I see a day when forensic investigators will map out a crime scene with hand-held laser devices to perfectly record information which will be transformed into hologram reproductions.

4. Ion-Sniffers

tech10Detection of ions through gas chromatography mass spectrometers has been around fifty plus years and is still used daily in crime labs. What’s missing are portable devices to assist in field searches of buildings, vehicles, boats, planes, and the great outdoors. Often investigators know exactly what they’re looking for – a firearm, explosives, contraband, or even a dead body – but the parameters of the search area turn it into the needle-in-a-haystack scenario.

I see a day when the ionic signature of the article(s) being searched for are dialled into the device and it zooms right into the location.

5. Satellite Tracking of Dangerous Criminals

tech11Over the past few decades we’ve got a better handle on controlling violent and prolific offenders through DNA profile banks and ankle bracelets of parolees. We’ve also had tremendous advances in satellite technology where smart-bombs are delivered down terrorist’s chimneys and GPS aps tell you exactly where you are on the planet. We have microchips in everything from our bank cards to our pet Schnauzers and there are more cell phones in Africa than people. What we don’t know is where the dangerous .001 percent of the population are and have been.

AB23479I see a day that we’ll ditch these guy’s rights. We need to protect the 99.999 percent of the population that’s at risk. Common sense will prevail and there’ll be court orders mandating satellite tracking chips being surgically implanted into dangerous offenders.

I’ll check back with you in 2050. It’ll be interesting to see what I’ve missed.