Comments of Kenneth R. Moses

In the late 1970’s as an Inspector with the San Francisco Police Department, I was tasked with research into the new Rockwell Printrak Automated Fingerprint Identification system and the FBI Finder system upon which it was based. I travelled to all installed sites to examine their operations. In 1982, San Francisco went out for a competitive bid for an A.F.I.S even though at the time only the Rockwell Printrak system was being actively marketed. Surprisingly, we received bids from an English firm, Logica, and from N.E.C. Since our primary focus was on the crime solving function, we devised a comprehensive latent print benchmark test which we administered to each of the three systems. Logica and NEC passed the test, but because only NEC had a current large system in operation, NEC AFIS was selected.

I have read the NEC Milestone proposal and find that the claims made therein are accurate and without exaggeration.

NEC built the first large scale AFIS capable of identifying prints from crime scenes with a high degree of accuracy and success.

The F.B.I.’s Finder System was larger but was built primarily for use in technical searches of newly arrested persons against its existing data base. It was not effective in searching latent prints, a point that the Bureau readily admitted. The fact that early Printrak AFIS models used the same algorithm explains why those other systems in use at the time also suffered from poor latent print accuracy. (Consumers Guide to Fingerprint Systems, Ident. News, 1986)

Tracking AFIS identifications through the criminal justice system in San Francisco proved that the system had a significant impact on lowering the burglary rate during the first five years of operation while during that same period burglaries increased in other cities with similar demographics. (In the U.S., approximately 70% of latent fingerprints are taken from burglary scenes.) (Fingerprint Sourcebook (N2 6.6-9)

There is no question that NEC set the bar at a high level for the competition, and companies like Rockwell, Morpho, Cogent, and Lockheed Martin later rose to the challenge by substantially improving their own fingerprint systems thereby making the communities served by their customers safer.

For their historic and pioneering efforts, I endorse NEC’s Milestone application.