Monday, December 20, 2004

Border Patrol agents assigned to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) identified and arrested 23,502 persons with criminal records nationwide through a new biometric integrated fingerprint system during a three-month period beginning in September, CBP officials said yesterday.

Most of those arrested were foreign nationals.

“This 21st-century biometric identification technology is a critical law-enforcement tool for our CBP Border Patrol agents,” said CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. “It allows CBP Border Patrol agents to quickly identify criminals by working faster, smarter and employing technology to better secure the nation.”

Mr. Bonner has described the new system as “absolutely critical” to CBP’s priority mission of keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country, adding that it gives the agents the ability to identify those with criminal backgrounds “we could never have identified before.”

The program, known as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), is a biometric identification technology enabling Border Patrol agents to search CBP’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the FBI’s criminal fingerprint database simultaneously, CBP spokesman Mario Villarreal said.

It allows Border Patrol agents to rapidly identify people with outstanding warrants and criminal histories by electronically comparing a live-scanned 10-fingerprint entry against a comprehensive national database of previously captured fingerprints, he said.

The IAFIS/IDENT system went on line this year at all 148 Border Patrol station throughout the country. It began as a pilot project in San Diego, where it was employed at the Border Patrol’s Brown Field, Calif., station, and at the Calexico, Calif., port of entry.

During the three-month period this year, the agents identified and detained 84 homicide suspects, 37 kidnapping suspects, 151 sexual assault suspects, 212 robbery suspects, 1,238 suspects for assaults of other types, and 2,630 suspects implicated in dangerous narcotics-related charges.

CBP is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of the nation’s borders at and between the ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

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