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What is an AFIS?

AZAFIS Site Overview

Central Site

FAST Sites

RT Sites

ALI Sites

Image Scanner Sites

Mug Photo Sites


What is an AFIS?

An Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is effectively a storage, search and retrieval system for finger and palm print electronic images and demographic data. AFIS is a high speed, high capacity image processing system that enhances the ability of the latent fingerprint examiners to search and identify crime scene evidence and tenprint technicians to search arrest prints against ever increasing pool of fingerprint records.

AFIS systems have and continue to replace outdated manual methods of fingerprint classification employed by law enforcement agencies over the past century.

AFIS systems utilize specialized software and powerful computer hardware configurations to create unique mathematical ‘maps’ (algorithms) based upon relationships between the characteristics present within the finger or palm friction ridge skin structures. Modern AFIS systems rapidly extract information from the fingerprint to establish the pattern type, minutiae points and the axis of the image. The use of mathematical algorithms enables a fingerprint to be compared with millions of file prints within a matter of seconds.

AFIS software utilize the impressions obtained from the rolled index fingers or thumbs to search and ‘match’ against existing tenprint records within the database. This matching process is used in proving identity in the recording of criminal convictions (criminal history).

The AFIS system may use the rolled impressions or a combination of the rolled and flat impressions of all fingers to compare against the unsolved crime latent database. This process is used when comparing new arrest finger and palm images against the unsolved crime latent database or when comparing new crime scene latent evidence against the existing arrest records within the tenprint database.

Different systems offer "binary" or "grey-scale" images. Pure black and white images depicted as binary images frequently allow important data to "drop out" of the image, i.e. the scanner or reader recognized black and white but not the shades of grey. Modern systems offer grey scale images and, depending on the system, these images may be captured using up to 256 grey levels which gives the examiner more detailed data to compare and identify.

When searching an unknown print against the AFIS database, the system provides a "candidate list" of the closest matching fingerprint images from the tenprint database. The fingerprint examiner verifies the results and indicates whether an identification has been made against any one of the nominated candidates.

While the list provided by the AFIS is given in order of decreasing match value (as calculated by the search algorithm), the final identification, as established by the fingerprint expert, may not necessarily be among the first few candidates on the list. Despite the progress made in computer hardware and software, AFIS technology has not yet eliminated the need for human verification of AFIS match results.

The AFIS database contains several separate databases, each with its own specific purpose and storage scheme, to facilitate efficient overall system performance. These include the tenprint, palm print and unsolved crime case image databases (finger and palm).

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AZAFIS Site Overview

The Arizona Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AZAFIS) is comprised of a central fingerprint and mug photo repository within the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), Full Access System Terminal (FAST) sites, Remote Terminal (RT) sites, AZAFIS Livescan Interface (ALI) Sites, AZAFIS Image Scanner Interface (AISI) Sites, and Mug Photo Interface (MPI) sites. AFIS, livescan, card scanner, and mug photo equipment connected to the AZAFIS frame relay network allows authorized users throughout the State to remotely launch fingerprint searches and mug photo lineup requests against the centralized statewide databases. Once fingerprints have been searched against the AZAFIS database they are automatically submitted electronically to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) to be searched against the national fingerprint database. The Arizona Computerized Criminal History (ACCH) database is also automatically updated via the AZAFIS-ACCH interface.  There are approximately 3 million fingerprint cards in the database.

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Central Site AFIS Operations (Arizona Department of Public Safety)

The Records and Identification Bureau of the Arizona Department of Public Safety is responsible for overall management of AZAFIS.  The AZAFIS Fingerprint Unit of the Records and Identification Bureau provides AFIS tenprint processing for criminal justice agencies throughout the state that are not designated as FAST sites or RT sites. AFIS latent print processing is provided by the DPS Crime Laboratory Latent Print Unit for these same agencies. The AZAFIS Fingerprint Section is also charged with providing quality control monitoring of FAST site and RT site AZAFIS processing.

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Full Access System Terminal (FAST) Sites


A FAST site is a law enforcement agency designated by the AZAFIS Advisory Board that, in addition to being responsible for entering and searching its own agency's tenprints and latent prints against the centralized AZAFIS databases at the Arizona Department of Public Safety, is also required to process tenprints and latents for all other law enforcement agencies (except RT site agencies) within the county in which the FAST site agency is located.  FAST sites have been designated at the sheriff’s offices in the two most populous counties: Maricopa and Pima. Necessary hardware and software capable of performing both tenprint and latent print functions is provided to the two FAST site agencies by the State of Arizona. 

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Remote Terminal (RT) Sites

An RT site is an approved law enforcement agency in any of the 15 counties that acquires its own fully-compatible AFIS equipment that is directly interconnected to the central site AZAFIS computers at the Arizona Department of Public Safety.  An RT site has the same tenprint and latent print processing capabilities as a FAST site, but is required to pay all costs associated with AFIS processing at the Remote Terminal site.  An RT site is responsible for entering and searching only its own agency's tenprints and latent prints through the centralized AZAFIS databases at the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The 10 RT sites are located at: Chandler Police Department, Glendale Police Department, Mesa Police Department, , Peoria Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Scottsdale Police Department, Tempe Police Department, Tucson Police Department, Yuma Police Department, and the Avondale Police Department.

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AZAFIS Livescan Interface (ALI) Sites

The State of Arizona provides livescan equipment for the primary arrest booking facility in each of the 15 counties in the State of Arizona to allow participating agencies to capture arrestees' fingerprints with the installed devices and then transmit them electronically to an AFIS workstation at the Central Site, a FAST site, or an RT site for automated searching and subsequent electronic filing; eliminating the need to mail arrest fingerprint cards.  Electronic mug photo capture capability was also provided for each county sheriff’s office. Livescan equipment was also provided by AZAFIS to two juvenile court centers in Maricopa County and Pima County to be used to capture fingerprints of juveniles who are adjudicated as delinquent for committing offenses that would be classified as felonies if committed by adults. Many police agencies have also since acquired livescan capability, bringing the total number of livescans in the State to about 120.

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AZAFIS Image Scanner Interface (AISI) Sites

AZAFIS Image Scanner Interface (AISI) equipment was acquired by the State and by several law enforcement agencies as a less-expensive alternative for the electronic submission of fingerprints for low-volume sites. To submit a set of fingerprints from an AISI site the operator first manually captures an arrestee’s fingerprints using the traditional ink-and-roll method. The inked prints are then scanned and digitized using the AISI equipment. The operator then enters the demographic data needed to complete a fingerprint card. The images and the demographic data are merged and transmitted electronically to the designated AFIS workstation site to be searched and added to the AZAFIS database. Crime scene fingerprints (latents) may also be scanned and transmitted using an AISI workstation.

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AZAFIS Mug Photo Interface (MPI) Sites

The AZAFIS Mug Photo Interface (MPI) subsystem is comprised of a centralized statewide image database operated and maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The MPI input/retrieval (capture) workstations are interfaced to the AZAFIS livescan equipment at sheriff’s offices and police departments around the state, and are used to acquire mug photos and images of scars, marks, and tattoos of arrestees when they are booked and fingerprinted. The MPI images are transmitted electronically along with the fingerprint images to the central database. Sites with MPI investigative workstations have the capability of retrieving standardized mug photo lineups and other electronic images (including driver license photos) via the AZAFIS network. There are currently 61 MPI capture sites and 76 investigative sites in the State.  There are approximately 8 million photos in the database.

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