Missing prints mean inaccurate criminal background checks
In 2013, 30,000 suspected criminals whose charges included sex crimes, assaults and murder were not fingerprinted by Pennsylvania police, according to state records, reported PublicSource.org.
State law requires that suspected offenders be fingerprinted within 48 hours of arrest.
So, if thousands of people aren’t getting fingerprinted, whose fault is it?
Luzerne, McKean, Lawrence and Northumberland counties are the four worst when it comes to fingerprinting, with police failing to fingerprint roughly 40 percent of the people they arrest, according to data compiled by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and analyzed by PublicSource.
“It’s up to the police to do it. It’s a mandatory function. It’s not anybody else’s job but the arresting department,” said Eric Radnovich, director of the Bureau of Justice Services at the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.
But police often pass the buck, relying on judges, jailers or even defendants themselves to be sure prints are made. In many cases, prints are made more than a year later, if they’re made at all.
The social cost of not fingerprinting those who are arrested is not small: Without a fingerprint, a defendant has no criminal history.
That means they can’t be tracked. Neither the court system nor other police departments have a record. Their background check would be clean if they wanted to teach or coach in a school or daycare or work in a nursing home. Their offenses wouldn’t be on record if they wanted to buy a gun.
“Just think about someone in your neighborhood who was arrested for a sex offense involving a child. It’s like the system is blind to him,” Mark Bergstrom, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, told PublicSource.
Lawrence Counties is missing 38.1 percent of cases from the last half of 2013. Prints were missing for hundreds of cases. In nearby Beaver County only 1.9 percent of prints are missing.
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