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NCSU research finds racial differences in fingerprint analysis

Posted December 28, 2015 1:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 28, 2015 7:35 p.m. EST

— When police investigate a crime, one of the first things they do is look for fingerprints. Research from North Carolina State University may give them a new place to start when they analyze those prints.

Ann Ross, a pioneer in forensic anthropology, leads the N.C. State lab where graduate students have found racial clues in old fingerprint files.

"What we ended up finding, which was surprising, is there were differences between African-Americans and European-Americans," Ross said.

Differences in the tiny details of fingerprints, such as the ridges and dots, could indicate the racial profile of someone who left a latent print.

"We may be able to take fingerprints to another level that we think a perpetrator is African-American or European-American," she said.

Ross cautions that the research is just getting started, but it soon could spark a revolution in criminal investigations.

Because her sample size was small, further studies are needed.

"If we can have more people doing this and increasing our sample sizes, I think we're almost there," she said.

She also wants to study fingerprints of people with diverse ancestral backgrounds.

Ross' team did not find differences between male and female fingerprints.