WASHINGTON — A new report released by the Virginia State Crime Commission has found more than 675,000 criminal records in Virginia are missing fingerprints, exposing systemic flaws with current fingerprinting procedures.
Of the thousands of charges missing fingerprint records, 35 percent of those offenses are felonies, including murder and rape convictions. The remaining 65 percent consist of misdemeanor charges. Out of the total number of felony cases missing fingerprints, 56 percent had a guilty disposition, according to the report.
The charges lacking fingerprints date back to the early 1990s. The missing fingerprint records are a result of a lack of manpower and technology issues. Other contributors include non-electronic fingerprint submissions, offenders submitting only one set of fingerprints for multiple charges and a lack of resources to keep up with demand.
Corinne Geller, spokesperson for Virginia State Police, says confusion around when fingerprints should be taken has also contributed to the problem.
“The Crime Commission Study reflects the reality that criminal history records, like all records, are only as good as the data inputs,” said Geller.
The report also made 13 recommendations to resolve the problem, including requesting Virginia State Police to identify staff needs for processing and to develop a guide for law enforcement of reportable offenses.
The report also suggests the Crime Commission staff continue working with the Secretary of Public Safety’s Internal Dispositions Work group to consider issues like determining who is responsible for collecting fingerprints from defendants charged via summons and how juvenile fingerprinting should be handled.
It’s a concern Geller says Virginia State Police are currently working to resolve. “We are currently participating in a statewide work group that’s led by the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security and we’re all working together to identify those solutions,” said Geller.
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