Law Enforcement: Information on Timeliness of Criminal		 
Fingerprint Submissions to the FBI (27-JAN-04, GAO-04-260).	 
                                                                 
By positively confirming identifications and linking relevant	 
records of arrests and prosecutions, fingerprint analysis	 
provides a basis for making fundamental criminal justice	 
decisions regarding detention, charging, bail, and sentencing. In
1999, the FBI implemented the Integrated Automated Fingerprint	 
Identification System (IAFIS)--a computerized system for storing,
comparing, and exchanging fingerprint data in a digital format.  
The FBI's goal under IAFIS is to ultimately achieve paperless	 
processing and to provide a response within 2 hours to users who 
submit criminal fingerprints electronically. Maximizing the	 
benefits of rapid responses under IAFIS depends largely on how	 
quickly criminal fingerprints are submitted by local and state	 
law enforcement agencies. Concerns have been raised that, after  
arrests are made by some local or state law enforcement agencies,
periods of up to 6 months may elapse before the criminal	 
fingerprints are submitted for entry into IAFIS. GAO examined (1)
the importance of IAFIS processing to local and state law	 
enforcement agencies, (2) the progress these agencies have made  
toward the goal of paperless fingerprint processing, and (3)	 
efforts being made to improve the timeliness of criminal	 
fingerprint submissions.					 
-------------------------Indexing Terms------------------------- 
REPORTNUM:   GAO-04-260 					        
    ACCNO:   A09156						        
  TITLE:     Law Enforcement: Information on Timeliness of Criminal   
Fingerprint Submissions to the FBI				 
     DATE:   01/27/2004 
  SUBJECT:   Crimes or offenses 				 
	     Criminals						 
	     Law enforcement					 
	     Law enforcement agencies				 
	     Law enforcement information systems		 
	     Strategic planning 				 
	     Identity verification				 
	     FBI Integrated Automated Fingerprint		 
	     Identification System				 
                                                                 

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GAO-04-260

United States General Accounting Office

GAO

Report to the Ranking Minority

Member, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate

January 2004

LAW ENFORCEMENT

    Information on Timeliness of Criminal Fingerprint Submissions to the FBI

GAO-04-260

Highlights of GAO-04-260, a report to the Ranking Minority Member,
Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate

By positively confirming identifications and linking relevant records of
arrests and prosecutions, fingerprint analysis provides a basis for making
fundamental criminal justice decisions regarding detention, charging,
bail, and sentencing. In 1999, the FBI implemented the Integrated
Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)-a computerized system
for storing, comparing, and exchanging fingerprint data in a digital
format. The FBI's goal under IAFIS is to ultimately achieve paperless
processing and to provide a response within 2 hours to users who submit
criminal fingerprints electronically. Maximizing the benefits of rapid
responses under IAFIS depends largely on how quickly criminal fingerprints
are submitted by local and state law enforcement agencies. Concerns have
been raised that, after arrests are made by some local or state law
enforcement agencies, periods of up to 6 months may elapse before the
criminal fingerprints are submitted for entry into IAFIS.

GAO examined (1) the importance of IAFIS processing to local and state law
enforcement agencies, (2) the progress these agencies have made toward the
goal of paperless fingerprint processing, and (3) efforts being made to
improve the timeliness of criminal fingerprint submissions.

GAO is making no recommendations in this report.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-260.

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on
the link above. For more information, contact Laurie Ekstrand,
202-512-8777, [email protected]

January 2004

LAW ENFORCEMENT

Information on Timeliness of Criminal Fingerprint Submissions to the FBI

IAFIS processing of criminal fingerprints is important to local and state
law enforcement not only for updating national databases but also for
obtaining an individual's criminal history and, at times, for obtaining
positive identification of arrestees. For a recent 8-month period (October
2002 through May 2003) that GAO reviewed, law enforcement agencies wanted
a response from the FBI for 78 percent of the approximately 5.3 million
sets of criminal fingerprints submitted to IAFIS. The extent to which
these responses were used to either positively identify arrestees or
obtain criminal history records is unknown. However, the FBI provided GAO
with examples of how IAFIS responses prevented the premature release of
individuals who had used false names at arrest and were wanted in other
jurisdictions.

Law enforcement agencies have made progress toward the FBI's goal of
paperless processing of criminal fingerprints, although there is room for
substantial improvement. The percentage of criminal fingerprints submitted
electronically by state repositories to the FBI increased from 45 percent
in 1999 to 70 percent in 2003. Also, for the recent 8-month period GAO
reviewed, the overall average submission time for criminal fingerprints
was 40 days (an average that encompasses both paper and electronic
submissions)-whereas, before IAFIS, average submission times were much
higher (e.g., 118 days in 1997). Although much progress has been made,
many jurisdictions lack automation and have backlogs of paper fingerprint
cards to be processed, in part because of competing priorities and
resource constraints.

Numerous efforts have been made to help improve the timeliness of criminal
fingerprint submissions to IAFIS. To facilitate electronic processing,
federal technical and financial assistance has encouraged law enforcement
agencies to purchase optical scanning (Livescan) equipment for taking
fingerprints and to establish automated systems compatible with FBI
standards. GAO noted that the need for quick, fingerprint-based
identifications-positively linking individuals to relevant criminal
history records-is becoming increasingly important. Reasons for such
importance are the mobility of criminals (many of whom have multistate
records), the growing incidence of identity theft or identity fraud, the
significance of homeland security concerns, and increasing demands
stemming from background checks required for employment or other
noncriminal justice purposes.

Atlanta Police Department Employee Demonstrates Use of a Livescan Machine

Contents

Letter

Results in Brief
Background
IAFIS Processing of Criminal Fingerprints Is Important for

Updating and Providing Complete Criminal History Information and Can
Provide Positive Identification of Arrestees Progress Has Been Made in
Achieving Paperless Fingerprint Processing, with Many Factors Influencing
Progress Various Efforts Are Under Way to Improve the Timeliness of

Criminal Fingerprint Submissions to IAFIS Concluding Observations Agency
Comments

                                       1

                                      2 4

                                       8

13

21 26 27

       Appendix I          Objectives, Scope, and Methodology              29 
                                       Objectives                          29 
                                  Scope and Methodology                    29 
                                    Data Reliability                       30 

Appendix II 	National Criminal History Improvement Program Grant Funding
for AFIS/Livescan (Fiscal Years 19992003)

Table

Table 1: National Criminal History Improvement Program Grant Funding
Received by the States for AFIS/Livescan Activities (Fiscal Years 1999
-2003)

Figures

Figure 1: Flowchart of Manual and Electronic Submission Processes 6 Figure
2: Examples of Arrestees Held Pending Positive Identification from IAFIS
10 Figure 3: Examples of Arrestees Released before Positive Identification
from IAFIS 12

Figure 4: Average Number of Days between the Date of Arrest and the Date
That the Criminal Fingerprints Were Received by the FBI or Entered Into
IAFIS (for Specific Periods in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 2003) 14

Figure 5: Percentage of the Total Criminal Fingerprint Submissions
Received by the FBI That Were Submitted Electronically (1999-2003) 16

Figure 6: Annual Number of Criminal and Civil Fingerprint Submissions
Received by the FBI (1992-2002) 25

Abbreviations

AFIS automated fingerprint identification system
BJS Bureau of Justice Statistics
CJIS Criminal Justice Information Services
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
IAFIS Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System
NCHIP National Criminal History Improvement Program
SEARCH The National Consortium for Justice Information and

Statistics

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separately.

United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548

January 27, 2004

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd Ranking Minority Member Committee on
Appropriations United States Senate

Dear Senator Byrd:

An effective criminal justice system must be able to accurately identify
persons who violate the law. For decades, fingerprint analysis has been
the most widely used method for positively identifying arrestees and
linking them with any previous criminal record. Timely analysis of
criminal fingerprint records by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
as well as by local and state law enforcement agencies, plays an important
role in enabling criminal justice administrators-including police
officers, prosecuting attorneys, and judges-to know the extent of an
arrested person's previous criminal record as a basis for making
fundamental decisions about detention, charging, bail, and sentencing.

This report responds to your request that we review various issues
regarding the timeliness of criminal fingerprint submissions by local and
state law enforcement to the FBI for inclusion in the Integrated Automated
Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Implemented in July 1999, IAFIS
was designed to improve the speed and accuracy of the fingerprint
identification process. A full set of fingerprints is taken when a suspect
is booked by the arresting law enforcement agency. Jurisdictionally,
approximately 94 percent of the nation's felony and serious misdemeanor
crime arrests are handled by nonfederal authorities. Copies of
fingerprints taken as a result of an arrest at the local or state level
are submitted to the state's central repository and, in turn, to the FBI
for entry into IAFIS.

You expressed particular concerns that after arrests are made by some
local or state law enforcement agencies, periods of up to 6 months may
elapse before the arresting agencies submit criminal fingerprints for
entry into IAFIS. As agreed with your office, this report addresses the
following questions:

o  	Why is IAFIS processing of criminal fingerprints important to local
and state law enforcement agencies?

o  	What progress have local and state law enforcement agencies made
toward the FBI's goal of achieving electronic (paperless) fingerprint
processing after an arrest has been made, and what factors have influenced
this progress?

o  What efforts are being made to improve the timeliness of criminal

fingerprint submissions from local and state law enforcement agencies?

To address these questions, we visited the FBI's Criminal Justice
Information Services Division (Clarksburg, WV), which manages IAFIS. We
interviewed FBI officials and reviewed available statistics, studies, and
other information about the issues. Also, we contacted the Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS), which administers a federal grant program to
help states automate criminal history records. Further, we discussed the
fingerprint issues with representatives of the International Association
of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Major County
Sheriffs' Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and
SEARCH.1 Also, we discussed these issues with (and analyzed statistics or
other information maintained by) local and state law enforcement agencies
in five states-Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico. We
selected these states to reflect a range of factors or
considerations-volume of fingerprint submissions, the "age" of such
submissions (i.e., the average amount of time from the date of arrest to
when the fingerprints were entered into IAFIS), and the level of
automation in the state's criminal justice information system, as well as
to encompass different geographic areas of the nation. We conducted our
work from March through December 2003 in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards. More details about the scope and
methodology of our work are presented in appendix I.

IAFIS processing of criminal fingerprints is important to local and state
law enforcement agencies not only for updating national criminal records
databases but also for obtaining an individual's complete criminal
history-and, at times, for obtaining positive identification of arrestees.
The importance of IAFIS to law enforcement agencies is apparent in the

1SEARCH (the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics),
a nonprofit membership organization created by and for the states, is
dedicated to improving the criminal justice system and the quality of
justice through better information management, the effective application
of information and identification technology, and responsible law and
policy.

Results in Brief

high number of requests for information from the system. For the recent
8month period we studied (October 2002 through May 2003), law enforcement
agencies wanted a response from the FBI for 78 percent of the
approximately 5.3 million criminal fingerprint sets submitted. The extent
to which law enforcement agencies used these IAFIS responses to either
positively identify arrestees or obtain the arrestees' criminal history
records is unclear. Law enforcement officials in the five states we
visited told us that their agencies typically do not use IAFIS for
identifying arrestees; rather, the officials noted that the primary
purpose of fingerprint submissions is to update IAFIS databases. However,
the FBI provided us examples of actual cases in which IAFIS responses to
law enforcement agencies prevented the premature release of arrested
individuals who had used false names and were wanted in other
jurisdictions.

Local and state law enforcement agencies have made progress toward the
FBI's goal of electronic (paperless) processing of criminal fingerprints
in the IAFIS environment, although there is room for substantial
improvement. For the recent 8-month period we studied (October 2002
through May 2003), the overall average submission time for criminal
fingerprints was 40 days (an average that encompasses both manual (paper)
and electronic submissions)-whereas prior to the implementation of IAFIS,
average submission times were significantly higher (e.g., 118 days in
1997). Also, since the implementation of IAFIS, the number of fingerprints
submitted electronically by state agencies as a percentage of total
criminal fingerprints received by the FBI has increased annually. And, for
a large number of criminal fingerprints, local and state law enforcement
agencies have demonstrated the ability to make submissions to IAFIS the
same day as the date of the arrest. However, for many jurisdictions,
delays in submitting fingerprints to IAFIS have been attributable to
various factors, including lack of automation, competing priorities and
resource constraints, backlogs of paper fingerprint cards to be processed,
and other factors. In practice, large portions of the lengthy submission
times associated with paper fingerprint cards probably represent
inactivity, or "holding," rather than actual "processing."

Numerous efforts have been made to help improve the timeliness of criminal
fingerprint submissions from law enforcement agencies to IAFIS. In recent
years, federal technical and financial assistance has focused on
encouraging law enforcement agencies to purchase optical scanning
(Livescan) equipment for taking fingerprints and for states to establish
state-level computerized fingerprint identification systems compatible
with FBI standards to facilitate electronic submission of criminal
fingerprints to IAFIS. The FBI has provided states with network

Background

connections, promoted the benefits of IAFIS to local and state law
enforcement at national conferences, and provided states with other
technical assistance. In each of the five states we visited, the practices
or plans for extending automation capabilities appeared to be based on
practical or cost-benefit considerations, such as giving priority to
placing Livescan equipment with local law enforcement agencies serving the
most populous areas. Also, BJS has provided federal grants to help states
purchase needed equipment and computer systems that provide electronic
transmission of criminal fingerprints to IAFIS. In addition, to help
mitigate competing workload demands stemming from increasing volumes of
fingerprints submitted for civil or noncriminal justice purposes, such as
employment background checks, the National Crime Prevention and Privacy
Compact Council is considering a need to broaden the authority of private
companies to process such fingerprints.2

Historically, before the invention of automated fingerprint identification
systems, paper fingerprint cards were used by law enforcement agencies to
report arrest information to state repositories and to the FBI. The
process was time-consuming, given that the local arresting agency mailed
the fingerprint cards to the state repository, which mailed the
information to the FBI-and, in return, the FBI's response (based on a
search of national records) would be mailed back to the state repository,
which would then mail the information to the local arresting agency.
Automation offered the potential to reduce submission and processing times
from weeks (or longer) to hours. According to the FBI, prior to IAFIS
implementation, a 6-month turnaround time for responses from the national
level was not unusual-whereas, under IAFIS, for criminal fingerprints
submitted electronically, the system can provide a response within 2
hours.

IAFIS is a national, computerized system for storing, comparing, and
exchanging fingerprint data in a digital format. As mentioned previously,
most fingerprint data stem from arrests made by local and state law

2The Compact Council, a 15-member entity composed of federal and state
officials, is responsible for promulgating rules and procedures governing
use of the Interstate Identification Index for noncriminal justice
purposes. The Interstate Identification Index is an "index-pointer" system
maintained by the FBI to facilitate the interstate exchange of criminal
history records. The Council administers the National Crime Prevention and
Privacy Compact (also known as the Interstate Identification Index, or
Triple I, Compact), which was established with passage of the Crime
Identification and Technology Act of 1998.

enforcement agencies, which take the suspect's fingerprints manually
(using ink and paper cards) or electronically (using Livescan equipment).
Then, a copy of the fingerprints is forwarded (by mail or electronically)
to the applicable state repository and, in turn, to the FBI for processing
in IAFIS, which is the world's largest biometric database (see fig. 1). In
practice, a combination of both manual and electronic methods is used in
submitting fingerprints to the FBI. For example, local law enforcement
agencies may take fingerprints manually on paper cards and mail them to
the state repository, and the state may then convert them to an electronic
format before forwarding them to the FBI. Alternatively, some local law
enforcement agencies with Livescan equipment forward fingerprints
electronically to state repositories, which-because they do not yet have
electronic transmission capability-print out paper copies of the
fingerprints and mail them to the FBI.

the FBI to provide them with the results of searching the fingerprints
against the IAFIS database. If the agency does want a response and IAFIS
finds a match, the FBI provides the submitting agency with the
individual's FBI identification number, which the agency can use to
retrieve the related criminal history record.3 If no match is found, then
the FBI creates a new FBI identification number for the individual and
adds the fingerprints to the IAFIS database.

Nationally, there is no standard requirement regarding the types or
categories of criminal offenses for which fingerprints must be taken by
local and state law enforcement agencies, nor is there any standard time
frame requirement (after the arrest) for submitting the fingerprints to
state criminal history repositories. However, according to FBI officials,
virtually all states require the fingerprinting of persons arrested for
serious offenses. Also, according to FBI officials, the time frame
requirement for submitting the fingerprints to criminal history
repositories varies among the states-generally ranging from a specific
number of hours or days to a nonspecific standard such as "promptly" or
"without undue delay."

Because complete information is integral to the capability of IAFIS to
provide accurate identification and criminal history services, the FBI
encourages all law enforcement agencies to submit criminal fingerprints to
IAFIS. Except for arrests related to crimes against children, there is no
federal statutory requirement for state criminal history repositories to
submit criminal fingerprints to the FBI.4 However, in accordance with FBI
guidance, all states voluntarily submit fingerprints for criterion
offenses- that is, any offense punishable by imprisonment for a term
exceeding 1 year (generally felonies and serious misdemeanors).

3Agencies submitting fingerprints to IAFIS electronically can use the FBI
identification number to retrieve an individual's criminal history from
the Interstate Identification Index system, which includes warrant flags
for the National Crime Information Center subject records. (According to
the FBI, approximately 60 percent of all warrants have an FBI
identification number.) If requested, the FBI can also electronically
provide a copy of an individual's record of arrest and prosecution (rap
sheet), which provides the individual's name, date of birth, physical
description, criminal history, and a notification of whether or not the
individual has any outstanding arrest warrants. For fingerprints submitted
on paper cards, the FBI will mail a copy of the rap sheet to the
submitting law enforcement agency, if a response is requested.

4Fingerprints must be submitted for individuals violating the Jacob
Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender
Registration Program, 42 U.S.C. 14071, and the National Child Protection
Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. 5119.

FBI policy calls for the submissions to be made through a designated
agency (the respective state's criminal history repository) rather than
directly from local agencies to the FBI. Centralized submissions from each
state are intended to help ensure that the states' repositories are
complete and that all agencies adhere to technical and quality standards.
There are no established time frame criteria or requirements for the
submission of fingerprints from the states to the FBI.

Ultimately, IAFIS was intended to eliminate the need for contributing law
enforcement agencies to prepare and mail paper fingerprint cards to the
FBI for processing and thereby improve the speed and accuracy of the
fingerprint identification process. That is, the FBI's goal is to achieve
electronic (paperless) processing of all fingerprint data-and to provide a
response within 2 hours to users who submit criminal fingerprints
electronically. Maximizing the benefits of rapid responses under IAFIS
depends largely on how quickly criminal fingerprints are submitted by
local and state law enforcement agencies after arrests are made.

IAFIS processing of criminal fingerprints is important to local and state
law enforcement agencies not only for updating national criminal records
databases but also for obtaining an individual's complete criminal
history-and, at times, for obtaining positive identification of arrestees
and for immediate warrant notification. It is not unusual for arrested
persons to use someone else's name or an alias and have false
identification documents. Also, many offenders are extremely mobile,
committing crimes in more than one state. According to the FBI, an
estimated 31 percent of criminal fingerprints processed by the Bureau
involve multistate offenders-that is, offenders who have been arrested in
more than one state.

The importance of IAFIS to law enforcement agencies is apparent in the
high number of requests for information from the system. Overall, law
enforcement agencies submitting criminal fingerprints generally want to
know the results of searching the fingerprints against IAFIS databases.
For the recent 8-month period we studied (October 2002 through May 2003),
law enforcement agencies wanted a response from the FBI for 78 percent

IAFIS Processing of Criminal Fingerprints Is Important for Updating and
Providing Complete Criminal History Information and Can Provide Positive
Identification of Arrestees

of the approximately 5.3 million criminal fingerprint sets submitted.5
With the search results, law enforcement agencies can positively identify
an arrestee and obtain an arrestee's criminal history record. This
information can be used by various justice system officials as a basis for
making fundamental decisions about detention, charging, bail, and
sentencing. For the remaining 22 percent of submissions, law enforcement
agencies did not request a response from the FBI; rather, the fingerprints
were submitted to update IAFIS databases.

The extent to which law enforcement agencies use IAFIS responses to either
positively identify arrestees or obtain an arrestee's criminal history
record is unclear. Law enforcement officials in the five states we visited
told us that their agencies generally do not use IAFIS for a quick
identification response because (1) local or state law enforcement
agencies usually can identify the arrested individuals, most of whom are
repeat offenders, and (2) all states currently have their own automated
fingerprint identification systems or belong to regional automated
fingerprint identification systems that can positively identify arrestees.
Instead, these officials noted that submitting fingerprints is important
for updating IAFIS databases so that future inquirers receive complete
information.

Furthermore, law enforcement officials in the states we visited noted that
in those cases where a quick identification response is needed from IAFIS
but the arresting agency does not have access to Livescan equipment that
can electronically submit fingerprints, the FBI allows agencies to fax
fingerprints to the FBI for processing. According to the FBI, these fax
requests for rapid fingerprint identification account for less than 1
percent of the total number of fingerprints received.

In any event, there are instances where quick identification responses
from IAFIS are important. In designing IAFIS, the FBI estimated that the
system would "prevent the release of the 10,000 to 30,000 fugitives freed
each year because of the extended delays in establishing their true
identities and warrant status."6 More recently, in response to our
inquiry,

5These data are based on all criminal fingerprint submissions entered into
IAFIS from October 2002 through May 2003 for arrests made since the
implementation of IAFIS on July 28, 1999. The data include criminal
fingerprint submissions that arrived at the FBI in either hard copy or
electronic format.

6Eric C. Johnson, SEARCH Technical Bulletin (Issue Number 2), "From the
Inkpad to the Mousepad: IAFIS and Fingerprint Technology at the Dawn of
the 21st Century," 1998.

FBI officials could not confirm this estimate or provide data on the
extent to which IAFIS has prevented the inappropriate release of
fugitives. However, as examples, the FBI provided us summary information
regarding two actual cases where quick identification responses from IAFIS
prevented the release of individuals who gave false names when they were
arrested and were wanted fugitives from another jurisdiction (see fig. 2).

Figure 2: Examples of Arrestees Held Pending Positive Identification from IAFIS

Georgia

In Columbus, Georgia, on January 12, 2003, an individual was arrested for
manufacturing, selling, and distributing drugs. As part of the booking
process, the individual's fingerprints were submitted electronically to
the FBI for processing in IAFIS. Within 7 minutes of receiving the
submission, the FBI determined that the individual

o  had used a false name at the time of the arrest in Georgia;

o  was wanted by the Cleveland, Ohio, Police Department since April 1999
in connection with a homicide charge; and

o  was also wanted by the FBI since February 2000 for flight to avoid
confinement (with a notation advising to use caution).

The FBI notified the arresting and the wanting agencies of the
identification. On March 20, 2003, the subject was extradited to
Cleveland, Ohio. The subject was prosecuted for aggravated murder. He was
found not guilty and released. (The subject is currently incarcerated in
Ohio for an unrelated drug charge.)

Michigan

In Monroe, Michigan, on December 17, 2002, an individual was arrested for
resisting arrest and obstructing an officer. As part of the booking
process, the individual's fingerprints were submitted electronically to
the FBI for processing in IAFIS. Within 20 minutes of receiving the
fingerprint submission, the FBI determined that the individual

o  had used a false name at the time of the arrest in Michigan;

o  had a criminal history in Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas that
included prior arrests for aggravated rape of a child,

possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, carrying a
firearm without a permit, forgery, theft, criminal trespassing, assault,
and car prowling;

o  was on parole after serving time for the rape of a child; and

o  was wanted in Austin, Texas, since July 2002 for a parole violation.

The FBI notified the arresting and the wanting agencies of the
identification. The individual was extradited to Texas and is currently
incarcerated for violating parole. He will not be eligible for parole
until 2011.

Source: FBI.

As contrasting examples, the FBI also provided us summary information
regarding two actual cases where the arresting agencies released
individuals from custody before making fingerprint submissions or
receiving the IAFIS responses, which indicated that the released persons
had used false names and were wanted fugitives from another jurisdiction
(see fig. 3). The frequency of such incidents-that is, cases where a local
or state law enforcement agency releases an arrestee from custody and
subsequently receives an IAFIS identification response showing
crossjurisdictional criminal history and outstanding warrants-is not
known.

  Figure 3: Examples of Arrestees Released before Positive Identification from
                                     IAFIS

Illinois

In Plainfield, Illinois, on October 30, 2002, an individual was arrested
for resisting a peace officer. The individual's fingerprints were not
submitted to the FBI for IAFIS processing until 18 days after the date of
the arrest. Before submission of the fingerprints, the individual was
released. Within 34 minutes of receiving the fingerprints, the FBI
determined that the individual

o  had used a false name at the time of the arrest in Illinois;

o  	had a criminal history that included previous arrests for aggravated
assault, unlawful use of a weapon, possession of cocaine, possession of
marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, violation of a bail bond,
and failure to appear; and

o  was wanted in Indianapolis, Indiana, since October 2000 for a sex
offense against a child.
The FBI notified the arresting and the wanting agencies of the
identification. The individual was still at large as of November 2003.

Washington

In Tacoma, Washington, on October 31, 2002, an individual was arrested for
possession of stolen property. The individual's fingerprints were not
submitted to the FBI for IAFIS processing until 19 days after the date of
the arrest. Before submission of the fingerprints, the individual was
released. Within 2 hours of receiving the fingerprints, the FBI determined
that the individual

o  had used a false name at the time of the arrest in Washington;

o  	had a criminal history that included possession of a controlled
substance, possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance,
obstructing an officer, eluding a traffic officer by operating a motor
vehicle, and jumping bail; and

o  was wanted in Racine, Wisconsin, since June 2002 for a homicide.

The FBI notified the arresting and the wanting agencies of the
identification. On May 22, 2003, the subject was spotted in Racine,
Wisconsin, and was subsequently arrested. The subject was convicted and is
currently incarcerated in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Source: FBI.

The capability of being able to quickly obtain positive identification of
arrestees is becoming increasingly important-not only because many
offenders have multistate records but also because of identity theft or
identity fraud, which has been characterized by law enforcement as the
fastest-growing type of crime in the United States.7 Furthermore,

7U.S. General Accounting Office, Identity Fraud: Prevalence and Cost
Appear to Be Growing, GAO-02-363 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 1, 2002) and
Identity Theft: Greater Awareness and Use of Existing Data Are Needed,
GAO-02-766 (Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2002).

Progress Has Been Made in Achieving Paperless Fingerprint Processing, with
Many Factors Influencing Progress

homeland security concerns add to the importance of quick positive
identification capability. For example, in June 2002 congressional
testimony, we noted that, in addition to using identity theft or identity
fraud to enter the United States illegally and seek job opportunities,
some aliens have used fraudulent identification documents in connection
with serious crimes, such as narcotics trafficking and terrorism.8 Also,
during our current review, the Chairman of the International Association
of Chiefs of Police's Criminal Justice Information Systems Committee told
us that the electronic processing of fingerprint data is the most
important component of the criminal justice information system and that
the timeliness of submission and how long it takes to enter fingerprints
into the automated system is an issue that could have serious
consequences. Although obstacles remain, much progress has been made in
electronic processing, as discussed in the following section.

Local and state law enforcement agencies have made progress toward the
FBI's goal of electronic (paperless) processing of criminal fingerprints
in the IAFIS environment, although there is room for substantial
improvement. For the recent 8-month period we studied (October 2002
through May 2003), the overall average submission time for criminal
fingerprints was 40 days-whereas prior to the implementation of IAFIS,
average submission times were significantly higher (e.g., 118 days in
1997). Also, since the implementation of IAFIS, the number of fingerprints
submitted electronically by state agencies as a percentage of total
criminal fingerprints received by the FBI has increased annually. And for
a large number of criminal fingerprints, local and state law enforcement
agencies have demonstrated the ability to make submissions to IAFIS the
same day as the date of the arrest. However, for many jurisdictions,
delays in submitting fingerprints to IAFIS have been attributable to
various factors, including lack of automation, competing priorities and
resource constraints, backlogs of paper fingerprint cards to be processed,
and other factors. In practice, large portions of the lengthy submission
times associated with paper fingerprint cards probably represent
inactivity, or "holding," rather than actual "processing."

8U.S. General Accounting Office, Identity Fraud: Prevalence and Links to
Alien Illegal Activities, GAO-02-830T (Washington, D.C.: June 25, 2002).

Nationally, the Average Time for Submitting Criminal Fingerprints Has
Improved since Implementation of IAFIS

Nationally, since the implementation of IAFIS in July 1999, the overall
timeliness of criminal fingerprint submissions has improved. For the
approximately 5.3 million criminal fingerprints entered into IAFIS from
October 2002 through May 2003-a total that encompasses both paper
fingerprint card and electronic submissions-the average submission time
was about 40 days after the date of arrest. In contrast, figure 4 shows
that before the implementation of IAFIS, the average number of days from
arrest to when the FBI received the fingerprints was about two or three
times longer than 40 days.

Figure 4: Average Number of Days between the Date of Arrest and the Date
That the Criminal Fingerprints Were Received by the FBI or Entered Into
IAFIS (for Specific Periods in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 2003)

Mean (in days)

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003

Source: GAO analysis of FBI data.

Notes: Each of the four data points represents a weighted average (mean)
in days for specific periods of time within the respective year for
criminal fingerprint submissions from the 50 states and the District of
Columbia. Data from other years were not available for analysis. Also, the
FBI's information systems do not have data regarding the amount of time
that elapsed from the date of arrest to the date the fingerprints were
received by state criminal history repositories. Thus, we could not
determine what portions of the submission times were associated with
processing by the arresting law enforcement agencies and the state
criminal history repositories, respectively.

Data for 1993, 1995, and 1997 are based on the FBI's sampling of all
criminal fingerprint submissions received by the FBI for the respective
time periods. Submission times were calculated using the date of arrest
and the date the fingerprint data arrived at the FBI. The 1993 mean (81.1
days) covers May 21 through June 23, 1993; the 1995 mean (75.6 days)
covers January 9 through February 28, 1995; and the 1997 mean (117.6 days)
covers July 14 through November 14, 1997. The FBI performed its analyses
of submission times as staff were available; therefore, the analyses do
not cover equivalent periods of time.

The 2003 data are based on all criminal fingerprint submissions entered
into IAFIS from October 2002 through May 2003 for arrests made since the
implementation of IAFIS on July 28, 1999. The data include criminal
fingerprint submissions that arrived at the FBI in either hard copy or
electronic format. Submission times were calculated using the date of
arrest and the date the fingerprint data were entered into IAFIS. The mean
submission time for the 2003 data was 40.2 days.

Despite improvements in average submission times since the implementation
of IAFIS, some criminal fingerprint requests continued to reflect large
lag times before being submitted. For example, of the approximately 5.3
million criminal fingerprint submissions entered into IAFIS from October
2002 through May 2003, about 535,000 (or 10 percent) were entered more
than 90 days after the date of arrest. And, of this percentage, over
one-half were entered into IAFIS more than 150 days after the date of
arrest.

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Justice noted
that while our use of the term "entered into IAFIS" accurately measures
the end of local and state processing, it should not be construed to
represent the point in time when the fingerprint record was physically
entered into the IAFIS database. The department noted that the time
intervals presented in this report-computed by the FBI's Criminal Justice
Information Services (CJIS) Division-were measured at the time the
fingerprint records were received electronically by IAFIS. The Department
added that the type of fingerprint submission, priority, workload, and
time of day would influence the actual time the records were processed and
entered into the IAFIS database. According to FBI officials, the agency
has a goal of processing electronic fingerprint submissions and sending a
response within 2 hours of receipt. For fiscal year 2002, the FBI reported
that it responded to 90.3 percent of the electronic criminal submissions
within 2 hours of receipt. Thus, the end of state processing and the
actual entry of the fingerprints into the system are within hours of each
other in most cases.

Electronic Criminal Fingerprint Submissions from State Agencies Have
Increased since the Implementation of IAFIS

Since the implementation of IAFIS in July 1999, the number of fingerprints
submitted electronically by state agencies as a percentage of total
criminal fingerprints received by the FBI has increased annually. As
figure 5 shows, for example, 45 percent of criminal fingerprint
submissions received by the FBI in 1999 from state central repositories
were electronic; whereas, in the first 4 months of 2003, 70 percent of
such criminal fingerprint submissions were electronic. According to FBI
data as of April 2003, 42 states and the District of Columbia were
routinely submitting some portion of their criminal fingerprints to the
FBI electronically.

Figure 5: Percentage of the Total Criminal Fingerprint Submissions
Received by the FBI That Were Submitted Electronically (1999-2003)

Percent

100

90

80

                                       70

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

0 1999a 2000 2001 2002 2003b

Source: FBI data.

Note: The percentages represent electronic submissions from state
repositories to the FBI. Although totals are not readily quantifiable,
state repositories received paper fingerprint cards from some local law
enforcement agencies and then digitally scanned the cards for electronic
transmission to the FBI.

aThe 1999 data cover the period July 28 through December 31, 1999.

bThe 2003 data cover the 4-month period January through April 2003.

Additional states soon may have the capability to submit criminal
fingerprints electronically. For instance, two of the five states we
visited in summer 2003 (Connecticut and Nevada) had not begun routinely
submitting criminal fingerprints to the FBI electronically but expected to
do so in the future. Specifically, officials from Nevada said that their
state was developing such capability and anticipated that it would be
available by the end of 2003. Similarly, officials from Connecticut said
that their state was upgrading technology to provide electronic submission
capability by the end of 2004.

Over One-Fourth of Criminal Fingerprints Were Entered into IAFIS the Same
Day as the Date of Arrest for the Period We Analyzed

For a large number of criminal fingerprints, local and state law
enforcement agencies have demonstrated the ability to make submissions to
IAFIS the same day as the date of the arrest. Of the approximately 5.3
million criminal fingerprints entered into IAFIS from October 2002 through
May 2003, over 1.5 million (29 percent) were entered on the same day as
the date of the arrest.9 Such same-day submissions are achievable when the
entire process is electronic, with law enforcement taking fingerprints
using Livescan devices that transmit the fingerprints electronically to
the state criminal history repository-which, in turn, transmits the
fingerprints electronically to the FBI.10 Electronic processing allows for
the fastest submission of fingerprints to IAFIS and supports the FBI's
goal of paperless processing of criminal fingerprint data.11

The Atlanta Police Department's electronic fingerprint process illustrates
how quickly fingerprint data can be submitted to IAFIS. The Atlanta Police
Department takes criminal fingerprints using Livescan devices and forwards
the fingerprint data electronically to the Georgia Crime Information
Center. After processing the fingerprint data, the Georgia Crime
Information Center transmits the fingerprint data via its computer systems
directly to IAFIS. According to FBI data for the period January through
May 2003, the Atlanta Police Department submitted a total of 7,895 sets of
criminal fingerprints. Of this total, 46 percent were entered into IAFIS
the same day as the date of the arrest. And 95 percent of the

9There were 1,527,205 of 5,266,393 fingerprints entered into IAFIS on the
same day as the date of arrest. The FBI's data were not amenable to
calculating the average number of hours from the time the fingerprints
were taken to when the fingerprints were entered into IAFIS.

10While 70 percent of the criminal fingerprint submissions to IAFIS were
made electronically during the period we reviewed, only 29 percent of the
submissions were entered into IAFIS the same day as the date of arrest.
Many fingerprints were likely taken on paper cards by the arresting agency
and mailed to the state criminal repository, where they were then
converted to an electronic format for submission to IAFIS.

11While characterizing the 29 percent figure as progress under IAFIS, FBI
officials had no specific data for comparing pre-IAFIS periods. The
officials noted that prior to IAFIS implementation, the number of criminal
fingerprints received by the FBI on the same day as the date of arrest was
not tracked.

total criminal fingerprint submissions for this period were entered within
1 day after the date of the arrest.12

Most Submission Time Lags Are Attributable to a Lack of Automation and
Various Other Factors

As mentioned previously, most criminal fingerprints are not entered into
IAFIS the same day as the date of arrest and may reflect time lags of 90
days or more. For many jurisdictions, time lags in submitting fingerprints
are attributable to various factors, including a lack of automation,
competing priorities and resource constraints, and backlogs of paper
fingerprint cards to be processed. Given these circumstances, large
portions of lengthy submission times associated with paper fingerprint
cards probably represent inactivity, or "holding," rather than actual
"processing."

The most significant factor causing delays in criminal fingerprint
submissions is lack of electronic processing capability. Generally, law
enforcement agencies that serve large populations have access to
technology that allows electronic capture and transmission of criminal
fingerprint data. For example, the most recent local law enforcement data
collected by BJS (in a July 2000 survey) indicated that a majority of
police departments serving populations of 50,000 or more reported they
regularly used digital imaging technology for fingerprints, and a majority
of sheriffs' offices serving populations of 100,000 or more reported they
regularly used such technology. However, the BJS report also indicated
that law enforcement agencies in less populated areas may have to use
paper fingerprint cards and manual processes. As a result, the BJS report
noted that, overall, only 11 percent of all police departments nationwide
and 27 percent of all sheriffs' offices reported they regularly used
digital imaging technology for fingerprints.13

12The remaining 5 percent of the criminal fingerprint submissions were
entered into IAFIS from 2 to 98 days after the date of arrest. No
information was readily available to indicate if these fingerprints were
taken manually and then converted to electronic format at the state
criminal history repository or were taken electronically using Livescan
devices. Downtime of equipment and human error are also plausible reasons
for delays in submission of some fingerprints.

13The data are based on a July 2000 survey of a nationally representative
sample of local police departments and sheriffs' offices in the United
States. See BJS, Local Police Departments 2000 (NCJ 196002), January 2003,
and BJS, Sheriffs' Offices 2000 (NCJ 196534), January 2003.

Also, given competing priorities and resource constraints, local law
enforcement agencies may not always see an urgent need to voluntarily
submit paper fingerprint cards quickly, particularly if the arrestee is a
repeat offender whose identity is already known. A representative of the
National District Attorneys Association told us that, given the staff time
and other costs involved, law enforcement agencies on a tight budget may
not submit fingerprints quickly without a good reason to do so, even
though submission would add to the national database. Local law
enforcement agencies that use manual processes may hold fingerprint cards
until a number are collected and then mail the batch to the state criminal
history repository.14 For example, according to Missouri State Highway
Patrol officials, some local agencies mail batches of paper criminal
fingerprints cards every other week to the state criminal history
repository.

Broader perspectives on submission time frames are presented in an August
2003 BJS report. Basing its conclusions on a survey (conducted in January
through July 2002) of state criminal history repository administrators,
BJS reported wide variances among states regarding submission of paper
fingerprint cards.15 For example, whereas Livescan fingerprint data often
were received by repositories within 1 day or less after the arrest
(sometimes only hours), one state's repository reported receiving paper
fingerprint cards 7 to 30 days (on average) after the date of arrest,
another repository reported receiving cards up to 90 days after arrest,
and another reported an average submission time of 169 days. During our
review, FBI officials told us that their data systems cannot track the
time from the date of arrest to when fingerprints (either paper or
electronic) arrive at the state repositories for processing. Therefore, we
could not determine what portion of submission times was attributable to
the submitting law enforcement agency versus the state criminal history
repository.

In its August 2003 report, BJS also indicated that 26 states reported they
had backlogs (as of year end 2001) in processing criminal fingerprint

14Similarly, FBI officials said that various state repositories
periodically batch-mail fingerprint cards to the Bureau.

15BJS, Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2001 (NCJ
200343), August 2003.

cards.16 Generally, the size and "age" of such backlogs, according to a
BJS survey, largely are a function of resources available for processing
the fingerprint cards. One state noted, for instance, that because of a
lack of funding to pay contract staff responsible for data entry and
clerical functions associated with fingerprint card processing, it had a
backlog of 7,500 cards in the latter part of 2001, but the backlog was
eliminated in June 2002 after state funds were reinstated. Law enforcement
officials we contacted also said that their jurisdictions lacked the
necessary personnel to quickly process fingerprint submissions. For
example, Missouri State Highway Patrol officials said that the agency has
had several fingerprint technician positions vacant over the last several
years, resulting in a backlog of unprocessed fingerprint cards.

Poor-quality fingerprints, inaccurate or incomplete textual information,
and other technical aspects of submissions are additional factors that can
delay entry of fingerprint data into IAFIS. According to FBI officials,
about 5 to 6 percent of criminal fingerprint submissions are initially
rejected for these reasons. Local and state law enforcement officials we
contacted told us that it generally is not possible to resubmit
fingerprints that were rejected for poor quality because the individuals
may no longer be in custody. However, these officials said they generally
resubmit fingerprints that were rejected because of inaccurate or
incomplete textual information.17 FBI officials told us that when
significant rejection patterns occur, the FBI works with the submitting
law enforcement agencies to address the causes.

Finally, as discussed in the following section, the timeliness of criminal
fingerprint submissions can be affected by an increasing workload
associated with the processing of "civil" fingerprints-that is,
fingerprintbased background checks conducted for employment or other
noncriminal justice purposes.

16Criminal fingerprint cards are not forwarded to the FBI until the state
criminal history repository has processed them. State-level processing
includes such steps as identification, transmission of responses to the
submitting law enforcement agencies, and update or creation of
computerized criminal history records.

17Data were not available for us to determine what percentage of rejected
fingerprints was later resubmitted to the FBI.

Various Efforts Are Under Way to Improve the Timeliness of Criminal
Fingerprint Submissions to IAFIS

In recent years, to encourage law enforcement agencies to submit criminal
fingerprints electronically to IAFIS, the FBI has provided states with
network connections, promoted the benefits of IAFIS at national
conferences, and provided states with other technical assistance. In each
of the five states we visited, the practices or plans for extending
automation capabilities appeared to be based on practical or cost-benefit
considerations, such as giving priority to placing Livescan equipment with
local law enforcement agencies serving the most populous areas. Also, BJS
has provided states with federal grants to help automate criminal
fingerprint submissions. According to the local and state officials we
contacted, continuation of federal technical and funding assistance is
essential for achieving further improvements in the timeliness of criminal
fingerprint submissions. In addition, to help mitigate competing workload
demands stemming from increasing volumes of fingerprints submitted for
civil or noncriminal justice purposes, such as employment background
checks, the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council is
considering a need to broaden the authority of private companies to
process such fingerprints.

FBI Initiatives and State Efforts Support the Automation of Criminal
Fingerprint Submissions

Although the FBI continues to accept paper submissions, the FBI's goal is
to achieve a completely paperless system, with all fingerprints being
submitted electronically. In 1998, to help achieve this goal, the FBI
provided IAFIS network connections to each state through the CJIS Wide
Area Network. These network connections provide each state with a link to
support a fully automated fingerprint submission process, including
electronic access to IAFIS.

To further support the automation of criminal fingerprint submissions, the
FBI has participated in various national conferences conducted by
organizations such as the International Association for Identification,
the National Sheriffs' Association, and the International Association of
Chiefs of Police. The FBI has also hosted two national conferences on
IAFIS and has provided technical assistance to various local and state law
enforcement agencies through workshops and site visits.

Local and state law enforcement officials we contacted expressed a need
for these initiatives to continue in the future. For example, Georgia
Bureau of Investigation officials said that continued training by the FBI
is essential to improve the quality of fingerprints and the timeliness of
submissions. Also, Missouri State Highway Patrol officials said that
previous FBI technical training has been valuable and that further
training is still needed.

In the five states we visited, the plans or practices for extending
automation capabilities appeared to be based on practical or cost-benefit
considerations. Generally, to allocate Livescan equipment, priority
placements were made to local law enforcement agencies serving the most
populous areas. For example, according to Georgia Bureau of Investigation
officials, 88 percent of the state's felony and serious misdemeanor
offense arrests in 2002 occurred within the geographic jurisdictions of
agencies that had access to Livescan machines. New Mexico Department of
Public Safety officials told us that the nine Livescan machines available
to law enforcement agencies in New Mexico are used to record fingerprints
for about 65 percent of the criminal arrests in the state.

National Criminal History Improvement Program Has Provided Federal Funds
for States to Automate Criminal Fingerprint Submissions

Under the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP)-a grant
program administered by BJS and designed to ensure that accurate records
are available for use in law enforcement-states can receive funds to
improve their ability to electronically provide criminal fingerprints to
the FBI. NCHIP funds support a broad range of activities and programs to
facilitate the electronic transfer of criminal fingerprints to the FBI,
such as (1) ensuring compatibility of state criminal history and arrest
records systems with FBI records systems, (2) establishing records
management systems to improve the quality and completeness of criminal
history and arrest information maintained by the state and provided to the
FBI, and (3) providing training and hosting conferences and seminars for
local and state criminal justice officials on issues related to
improvements in and automation of criminal history and arrest records.18

According to BJS data for fiscal years 1999 through 2003, 44 states and
the District of Columbia received a total of $31 million in NCHIP grants
to improve local law enforcement and state criminal history repository
access to electronic fingerprint transmission technology and IAFIS (see
app. II). For instance, Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials said
that the state used NCHIP funding in 1999 to provide smaller law
enforcement agencies a cost-effective approach to electronically submit
fingerprints. The funds were used, for example, to purchase card-scanning
equipment

18For the full range of programs and activities for which states can use
NCHIP funds, see BJS, National Criminal History Improvement Program -
Fiscal Year 2003 Program Announcement.

to digitally convert paper fingerprint cards for electronic transmission
to the state repository.

On the other hand, local and state law enforcement officials we contacted
said that fingerprints are not all submitted electronically because states
still lack funding to purchase, operate, and maintain the necessary
equipment. The officials said that law enforcement agencies generally do
not resist the idea of converting to an electronic process but are limited
financially in their capabilities to do so. For example, Missouri State
Highway Patrol officials said that an obstacle to additional automation
has been funding. According to these officials, while NCHIP is making
funding available for purchasing Livescan machines, some local law
enforcement agencies cannot afford the ongoing network and maintenance
costs needed to support an automated system. In commenting on a draft of
this report, the BJS Director indicated that NCHIP funds can and have
frequently been used by the states for the maintenance of automated
fingerprint systems. The Director added that if local agencies are not
receiving funds for maintenance, it is probably because the state has not
requested NCHIP funds for that purpose or has set its own priorities for
which localities will receive such support.

Generally, according to FBI officials, there is a continuing need for (1)
additional Livescan devices; (2) the upgrade of automated fingerprint
identification systems at the state level that are compatible with IAFIS;
and (3) research for fingerprint imaging, Livescan, and other automated
systems that will ensure interoperability of state and FBI systems.
However, the FBI officials noted that given the budget problems that many
states are now experiencing and the high cost of Livescan machines,
investment in this technology may not be a priority for the states.

Proposed Rule to Give Broader Authority to Private Contractors for
Processing Fingerprints for Noncriminal Justice Purposes

State and FBI officials told us that the timeliness of criminal
fingerprint submissions can be slowed by an increasing workload associated
with the processing of fingerprint submissions for civil or noncriminal
justice purposes, such as employment background checks.19 The numbers of
criminal fingerprint submissions and civil fingerprint submissions to the
FBI have increased annually in most years since 1992. As figure 6 shows,
during 1996 to 2002, the number of criminal fingerprint submissions was
exceeded by the number of civil fingerprint submissions in 5 of the 7
years. For example, in the most recent year (2002), criminal fingerprint
submissions totaled 8.4 million, whereas civil fingerprint submissions
totaled 9.1 million.

19The term "noncriminal justice purposes" refers to uses of criminal
history records for purposes authorized by federal or state law other than
purposes relating to criminal justice activities. For example, authorized
purposes may include employment suitability, licensing determinations, and
national security clearances.

Figure 6: Annual Number of Criminal and Civil Fingerprint Submissions
Received by the FBI (1992-2002)

                     Fingerprint submissions (in millions)

3.6 3.6

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

Criminal fingerprint submissions Civil fingerprint submissions

Source: FBI data.

The growth in civil fingerprint submissions is partly attributable to,
among other factors, federal legislation that encouraged states to enact
statutes authorizing fingerprint-based national searches of criminal
history records of individuals seeking paid or volunteer positions with
organizations serving children, the elderly, or the disabled.20 More
recently, another factor has been homeland security concerns. For
instance, because of the relatively unfettered access that taxicabs have
to city infrastructure, including the airport, the Atlanta Police
Department has begun running fingerprint-based criminal history background
checks on all of the city's approximately 3,500 taxicab drivers.

To help mitigate workload demands, some states have begun awarding
contracts to private companies to provide civil fingerprinting services.
Currently, private companies are involved in the collection of
fingerprints

20National Child Protection Act of 1993, as amended (42 U.S.C. 5119). See
U.S. General Accounting Office, Fingerprint-Based Background Checks:
Implementation of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, GAO/GGD-97-32
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 15, 1997).

Concluding Observations

but do not have the legal authority to access criminal history information
or make fitness determinations for employment. However, since February
2003, the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council-the
15-member entity (composed of state and federal officials) that
administers the use and exchange of criminal history records for
noncriminal justice uses-has been working to develop a rule to provide
such authority. That is, the proposed rule would enable state and federal
government agencies to contract with private companies to not only collect
fingerprints but also have access to criminal history information and make
fitness determinations for employment. According to the FBI, the rule is
anticipated to be finalized by the middle of calendar year 2004 and will
incorporate appropriate guidelines and controls.

Local and state law enforcement agencies have made progress toward the
FBI's goal of electronic (paperless) processing of criminal fingerprints
in the IAFIS environment. For example, all states have either established
or are working to establish interoperability between their state automated
fingerprint identification systems and IAFIS that allows for the
electronic submission of criminal fingerprints to the FBI. However, there
is still room for substantial improvement. Gaps exist in law enforcement
agencies' access to Livescan technology. Given budget and other resource
constraints at all levels of government, it may be unrealistic to expect
that 100 percent electronic processing and submission eventually will be
achieved for all jurisdictions. Smaller law enforcement agencies, for
example, may have difficulty justifying the cost of operating or
maintaining Livescan equipment and a telecommunications linkage to the
state's central repository.

For local agencies without access to Livescan equipment and for state
agencies that cannot currently submit fingerprints electronically to
IAFIS, the potential may exist for improving the timeliness of processing
and submitting paper fingerprint cards. The "potential" rests on reducing
the time that criminal fingerprints are waiting, or being held for
processing, which is likely to be a resource issue. Theoretically, for
example, these cards could be processed and mailed forward on a daily
basis rather than held for batch processing. Additionally, the processing
of noncriminal fingerprints could be handled by contractors, which could
free up law enforcement personnel to process criminal fingerprints in a
more timely manner. Ultimately, such decisions may involve unique
circumstances and, thus, perhaps are best left to agency-by-agency
determinations.

Overall, the effect of less than universal electronic processing is
unclear. In many cases, for instance, a same-day or quick response from
the FBI may not be needed. On the other hand, although such instances are
not readily quantifiable, there are cases where a local or state law
enforcement agency has released an arrestee from custody and subsequently
received an IAFIS identification response showing cross-jurisdictional
criminal history or outstanding warrants. In the absence of electronic
processing, the number of such instances may be partly mitigated by the
manual procedure whereby law enforcement can directly fax fingerprints to
the FBI. However, the effectiveness of this exception-basis procedure
depends largely on officers having sufficient experience to recognize a
need for expedited manual processing.

Federal technical and funding assistance continues to support ongoing
efforts to make additional progress in the automation of fingerprint
submissions. The need for positive, fingerprint-based identifications-
providing linkages to complete criminal history records-is not likely to
diminish in the foreseeable future, given that significant numbers of
arrestees have multistate criminal histories, the incidence of identity
theft or identity fraud is growing, and homeland security concerns and
noncriminal justice demands are increasing.

                                Agency Comments

On December 9, 2003, we provided a draft of this report for review and
comment to the Department of Justice. In its written comments, dated
January 7, 2004, Justice said the report was accurate and provided some
technical clarifications, which we incorporated in this report where
appropriate.

Also, one Justice component (BJS) commented that the draft report
presented a narrow description of the role of NCHIP in upgrading the
ability of states to provide fingerprints electronically to the FBI.
Specifically, the BJS Director noted that the allowable uses for NCHIP
funds extended far beyond the purchase of Livescan machines and covered
the continuum from fingerprint capture through the transmission of the
images to the FBI. We added additional information to the applicable
report section to reflect this perspective.

Further, the BJS Director commented that much progress has been made in
the automation of criminal fingerprint submissions under NCHIP. According
to the Director, NCHIP performance measures calculated and tracked as part
of the administration and oversight of the program indicate that

o  	The number of arresting agencies reporting arrests electronically to
the state criminal history repositories has increased significantly, from
493 agencies in 1997 to 2,594 agencies in 2001.

o  	Arrest information is reaching state criminal history repositories
faster, with submission times from the arresting agency to the state
agency dropping from an average of 14 days in 1997 to 11 days in 2001.

o  	State repositories are processing arrest information faster, with
average times to post arrest data into the criminal history record
dropping from 32 days in 1995 to 13 days in 2001.

o  	State criminal history backlogs of unprocessed fingerprint cards
dropped from an estimated 711,000 in 1997 to an estimated 354,300 in 2001.

The Director noted that these statistics are based on data collected for
BJS in biennial surveys conducted by SEARCH. Because of our reporting time
frames, these specific statistics were not included in the data
reliability assessments described in appendix I.

As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days after
the
date of this report. At that time, we will send copies of this report to
interested congressional committees and subcommittees. We will also
make copies available to others on request. In addition, the report will
be
available at no charge on GAO's Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report or wish to
discuss
the matter further, please contact me at (202) 512-8777 or Danny Burton at
(214) 777-5600. Other key contributors to this report were Amy Bernstein,
Michele Fejfar, Ann H. Finley, Jason Kelly, George Quinn, Deena Richart,
and Jason Schwartz.

Sincerely yours,

Laurie E. Ekstrand
Director, Homeland Security and Justice

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

Objectives

o

o

o

Scope and Methodology

At the request of the Ranking Minority Member, Senate Committee on
Appropriations, we addressed the following questions regarding the
submission of criminal fingerprints by local and state law enforcement
agencies to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for processing by
the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS):

Why is IAFIS processing of criminal fingerprints important to local and
state law enforcement agencies?

What progress have local and state law enforcement agencies made toward
the FBI's goal of achieving electronic (paperless) fingerprint processing
after an arrest has been made, and what factors have influenced this
progress?

What efforts are being made to improve the timeliness of criminal
fingerprint submissions from local and state law enforcement agencies?

To address these questions, we visited the FBI's Criminal Justice
Information Services Division (Clarksburg, WV), which manages IAFIS. We
interviewed FBI officials and reviewed available statistics, studies, and
other relevant information. We analyzed FBI data by state on criminal
fingerprint submission volumes and times for fingerprints entered into
IAFIS from October 2002 through May 2003. Our analysis focused on criminal
fingerprint submissions for arrests made since the implementation of IAFIS
on July 28, 1999, and covered both automated and manual (paper)
submissions. We also obtained the FBI's reports of criminal fingerprint
submission times in 1993, 1995, and 1997, and the total numbers of
criminal and civil fingerprints submitted annually during 1992 through
2002.

Also, we obtained funding amounts from Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
officials regarding the amount of National Criminal History Improvement
Program (NCHIP) grant funding awarded in fiscal years 1999 through 2003 to
the states and the District of Columbia for use in automating fingerprint
processes.

Further, we discussed the fingerprint submission issues with
representatives of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the
National Sheriffs' Association, the Major County Sheriffs' Association,
the National District Attorneys Association, and SEARCH (the National
Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics).

                 Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

Also, we discussed the fingerprint submission issues with (and analyzed
any statistics or other information maintained by) state law enforcement
agencies (e.g., state police department and judicial system
representatives) in five states-Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada,
and New Mexico. We selected these states to reflect a range of various
factors or considerations-that is, the volume of fingerprint submissions,
the "age" of such submissions (i.e., the average amount of time from when
the fingerprints were taken to when they were entered into IAFIS), and
level of automation in the state's criminal justice information system, as
well as to encompass different geographic areas of the nation.

Further, in each of the five states, we discussed the fingerprint
submission issues with relevant local agencies (e.g., city police
department or county sheriff's office) in at least one local jurisdiction.
Generally, for travel cost reasons (among other considerations), the local
jurisdictions selected were located in or near the respective state's
capital.

                                Data Reliability

To assess the reliability of the FBI's October 2002 through May 2003
criminal fingerprint submission data, we (1) reviewed existing
documentation related to the data sources, (2) electronically tested the
data to identify obvious problems with completeness or accuracy, and (3)
interviewed knowledgeable agency officials about the data. We determined
that the data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report.

To assess the reliability of (1) the FBI's reports of criminal fingerprint
submission times in 1993, 1995, and 1997; (2) the total numbers of
criminal and civil fingerprints submitted annually during 1992 through
2002; and (3) the percentages of electronic fingerprint submissions, we
interviewed knowledgeable agency officials about the data and reviewed
existing documentation related to the data sources. To assess the
reliability of the results of the BJS surveys of local law enforcement,
sheriff's offices, and state criminal history repository administrators,
we reviewed existing documentation related to the data sources. To assess
the reliability of the BJS NCHIP grant funding amounts and the FBI
estimate of multistate offenders, we interviewed knowledgeable agency
officials. We determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for the
purposes of this report.

Appendix II: National Criminal History Improvement Program Grant Funding for
AFIS/Livescan (Fiscal Years 1999-2003)

This appendix summarizes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data regarding
National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) grant funding
received by states and the District of Columbia for automated fingerprint
identification system (AFIS) and Livescan activities in fiscal years 1999
through 2003 (see table 1). According to BJS, the dollar amounts in table
1 are based on actual amounts awarded and the proposed AFIS/Livescan
activities listed in grant applications from the states and the District
of Columbia. A BJS official told us that some of the 12 states that
received no grant funding for AFIS/Livescan activities during this time
period did receive NCHIP funding for such activities in the earlier years
of the program, beginning in 1995.

Table 1: National Criminal History Improvement Program Grant Funding
Received by the States for AFIS/Livescan Activities (Fiscal Years 1999
-2003)

          State          1999       2000   2001       2002   2003       Total 
         Alabama       $401,582  $85,000  $76,875  $90,000 $107,760  $761,217 
         Alaska                0       0         0       0        0 
         Arizona               0 121,721         0       0        0   121,721 
        Arkansas               0       0         0       0  10,800     10,800 
       California              0      0a         0       0        0 
        Colorado        242,676        0         0       0        0   242,676 
       Connecticut             0 176,000  139,500        0  76,050    391,550 
        Delaware               0       0  224,000        0        0   224,000 
       District of             0       0  68,000   102,100        0   170,100 
        Columbia                                                    
         Florida               0       0         0 156,000 141,920    297,920 
         Georgia       1,583,528 301,240  94,783         0 351,634  2,331,185 
         Hawaii                0 488,640  275,000  215,675 354,000  1,333,315 
          Idaho         63,000         0         0 120,000        0   183,000 
        Illinois        305,000  456,680 1,082,000       0  63,920  1,907,600 
         Indiana        280,000        0  200,000  511,200 925,000  1,916,200 
          Iowa          89,500         0         0       0        0    89,500 
         Kansas                0       0         0       0 229,000    229,000 
        Kentucky        288,000        0         0       0 289,000    577,000 
        Louisiana              0       0         0       0        0         0 
          Maine         120,000        0         0 130,000        0   250,000 
        Maryland               0       0  181,170        0 251,111    432,281 
      Massachusetts     186,000  372,149  442,550        0        0 1,000,699 
        Michigan        34,314         0         0       0        0    34,314 
        Minnesota       275,000        0         0       0        0   275,000 

Appendix II: National Criminal History Improvement Program Grant Funding
for AFIS/Livescan (Fiscal Years 1999-2003)

        State            1999   2000      2001     2002     2003        Total 
     Mississippi            0         0        0        0        0          0 
       Missouri             0         0 409,973   86,235         0    496,208 
       Montana              0  67,500    21,213         0 275,000     363,713 
       Nebraska      120,000   40,200          0 124,620         0    284,820 
        Nevada              0         0        0        0        0 
    New Hampshire    150,000          0  25,000         0        0    175,000 
      New Jersey     731,034   930,651  459,763         0 211,412   2,332,860 
      New Mexico     173,747   257,080   31,680   80,000  55,000b     597,507 
       New York      443,069   170,483  143,131   22,954         0    779,637 
    North Carolina          0         0        0        0        0 
     North Dakota           0         0        0        0 349,546     349,546 
         Ohio        205,000          0        0        0  54,913     259,913 
       Oklahoma      140,000          0 400,000  428,000  300,000   1,268,000 
        Oregon              0  431,400         0        0        0    431,400 
     Pennsylvania           0         0 160,000         0        0    160,000 
     Rhode Island    406,800   336,400  220,000  284,950  342,855   1,591,005 
    South Carolina   112,350   105,000   40,000   71,500         0    328,850 

South       135,000    138,322  130,000            0    396,775     800,097 
Dakota                                                          
 Tennessee           0          0  360,652            0          0     360,652 
Texas             0          0          0          0 2,270,000    2,270,000 
    Utah             0          0          0     19,200          0      19,200 
  Vermont       82,000          0  114,415       70,557     98,863     365,835 
  Virginia     327,080          0  225,489      475,990    650,054   1,678,613 
 Washington    125,000    220,473  190,000            0    150,000     685,473 
    West             0     60,000          0    270,000    273,972     603,972 
  Virginia                                                         
 Wisconsin     540,060          0  251,720      597,000    145,200   1,533,980 
  Wyoming            0    168,146  105,883      137,322     77,064     488,415 
  National  $7,559,740 $4,927,085 $6,072,797 $3,993,303 $8,450,849 $31,003,774 
totals                                                          
  Source:                                                          
    BJS.                                                           

aThe data do not reflect an additional $739,302 California requested in
fiscal year 2000 to install Livescan machines in courthouses.

bFiscal year 2003 NCHIP funding for the state of New Mexico is to be
awarded in fiscal year 2004.

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