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New FBI technology brings three Alachua County cold cases back to life

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New FBI technology is bringing some cold cases back to life in Alachua county.

“It’s best described by the FBI as AFIS on steroids,” said Kevin Allen, cold case detective at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a perfect science, it’s as good as DNA.”

AFIS, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, has been replaced with NGI, the New Generation Identification.

This huge, national database has the ability to match fingerprints with those from cold cases – with an accuracy rate of 99-point-6 percent.

And it’s not just fingerprints. Using biometric technology, NGI can identify criminals using palm prints, irises and facial recognition.

Armed with this new technology, the FBI asked local law enforcement agencies to re-submit fingerprints from their cold cases.

“Some of our oldest cases are our cold cases where we don’t have the evidence anymore,” Allen said. “The only evidence we do have are the latent prints taken from the crime scene.”

By just examining these latent prints, human error is taken out of the equation.

“Those are sent to the FBI,” Allen said. “Now through NGI we can identify individuals that were at our crime scenes decades ago.”

The ACSO submitted all 24 of its cold cases to the FBI in February. Of those 24, three have been brought back to life after prints matched new suspects – including once case that’s five decades old.

“I think there is a strong potential that people that have committed crimes here years ago are still in the area,” Allen said.

Allen declined to discuss details because the case is actively being investigated.

“One big advantage for the NGI technology for these previous unsolved cold cases where there were no suspects, these suspects may have thought they got away with it,” Allen said.

After all these years, criminals may no longer be on the run. But now, technology has caught up with them.

Even in cases where the suspect has died, investigators say its important to keep pursuing.

“Some of our oldest cases, the hits we got recently the most viable suspect is deceased,” Allen said. “But giving that information to the family members that we know who committed the crime and we put that person’s fingerprints at the crime scene, does give the victims closure.”

With this technology, families and friends can feel as though their loved ones have not been forgotten on the shelf.

“they put so much out there and they help us so much with the investigation themselves and it takes so much out of them emotionally for them to get a little bit back, just a glimmer of hope is so important for them,” said Deanna Uhl, an ACSO victim’s advocate.

Even if a case reaches a roadblock today and NGI can’t crack it, these advances give hope that there may be something new on the horizon.

“When they do see the end, it’s just a total relief, just to know something is being done for their family,” Uhl said.

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