King County Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)
The Regional AFIS Program promotes public safety and contributes to crime reduction by providing expert fingerprint identification services to criminal justice agencies throughout King County.
Through support of King County voters, the Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) provides criminal identification services that officers, investigators, prosecutors, and corrections staff have all come to rely upon. The program is recognized for its high standards in quality, accuracy, and service. Its existence aids in solving crimes throughout King County, and contributes to the safety of both officers and citizens.
At the heart of the program lies a computer system called AFIS, which stores and compares minutiae found in fingerprints from known individuals and from crime scenes (“latent prints”). A list of candidates is produced by AFIS, then the fingerprint examiner visually compares any potential ‘hits’. The AFIS database contains hundreds of thousands of fingerprints and palmprints.
The King County Regional AFIS is comprised of much more than the AFIS computer. It includes a network of Livescan devices designed to capture high quality fingerprints and transmit them electronically to AFIS for fast identification. It also provides the equipment and staff to fingerprint and identify all inmates booked into county jails. This helps to identify possible wanted or dangerous offenders before they are released, even if they provide false names and incorrect information.
Helping to Solve Crimes
The AFIS Program provides the technology, equipment, and staff to recover and process fingerprints from major crime scenes. These are called latent prints. Examiners use various techniques to reveal prints left on evidence and then run the crime scene (“latent”) print through AFIS to be searched against hundreds of thousands of prints in the database. AFIS produces a list of potential matches based on the ridge detail within the print and the examiner compares the latent print to the prints on file to determine to whom the print belongs.
Before AFIS, police needed to have a suspect in mind for fingerprints to be of use. With AFIS, a “cold search” can be performed, enabling police to solve crimes with no suspects. Thousands of suspects have been identified through the use of fingerprints since the inception of King County’s AFIS in 1988. This has led to convictions for murders, assaults, rapes, burglaries, and other crimes. AFIS technology has also associated subjects with homicide cold cases who were not previously linked to the cases, providing detectives with new information to help solve crimes.
Funding of the Regional Program
The King County AFIS Program is funded through a voter-approved property tax levy. It is not part of the Sheriff’s Office or the Seattle Police Department budgets, as it supports enhanced regional fingerprint identification services to all cities and unincorporated areas in King County.
Please see the AFIS Annual Report link for the most up-to-date program information.