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Biometrics Technology Center speeding up local, state and federal criminal investigations


The FBI Biometrics Technology Center in North Central West Virginia opened for use last month with its first employees settled in just before Christmas.

Supported by the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the four story, 360,000 square foot, state-of-the art facility took about ten years in planning and construction due to the exacting standards needed for a highly secure compound.

The FBI shares the facility with the Department of Defense. Employees at the facility work on cutting edge biometric identification and recognition technology, using human characteristics to provide law enforcement and military personnel with needed identification of criminal and national security suspects. There are about 1,000 people now working at the center.

Amy Hess, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Science and Technology branch, spoke today at the Biometrics for Government and Law Enforcement conference, and said that the new facility is processing biometric data of all sorts.

In a report by FCW, Hess said that the agency is using fingerprints, irises, palm prints, facial traits, body scars, DNA information and even voice patterns to speed up local, state and federal criminal investigations, including DHS border security operations.

According to Hess, a fingerprint inquiry from a CBP agent at a border station now takes four to five seconds and an AFIS query from law enforcement officer now takes four to five minutes. The system can process 167,000 fingerprints per day with an increased accuracy rate of 99.6% compared to 92% under the old system.

The site also houses the FBI’s Biometric Center for Excellence program, which explores and advanced new uses of biometrics and speeds the integration of new technologies into operations.

In addition to storing the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, the Biometrics Technology Center is also a technology incubator that could jump-start new kinds of biometric technologies that could be opened up to commercialization.

For example, according to the FCW report, the center is working on a “Rapid DNA” system that could sample and process DNA samples in two hours however because of current laws, that technology can’t be used in the field yet. But, according to Hess, the technology could be passed on for commercial companies to develop further.

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