Pub. date: 2004 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952415 | Print ISBN: 9780761926498 | Online ISBN: 9781412952415| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Simon A. Cole
Fingerprints are representations of the papillary, or “friction,” ridges on the tips of the fingers. Fingerprint identification is the world's most widely used and widely known method of criminal identification. In law enforcement, it has two primary functions: archival (using the impressions of the complete set of fingerprints, or “ten-prints,” to link an individual to his or her criminal record, even if that individual uses an alias, over the course of a lifetime) and forensic (using one or more impressions left at a crime scene to determine that an individual was present at the crime scene). There are also ancillary functions, such as the identification of an unknown corpse. Although fingerprints have been described and observed since ancient times; were used to authenticate identity in China, Japan, and India; and were studied by 17th-century scientists, the widespread use of fingerprints for law enforcement was not explored until the late 19th ...