Identifying Fingerprint Patterns

Branding, tattooing and maiming were some of the techniques used by civilizations in times gone by, to identify pe, especially criminals. Today we have fingerprinting, a much more reliable and humane method of identification. Fingerprinting identification is extensively used by police squads and forensic agencies to nab the criminal and detect crime scene. The first fingerprinting identification division was established by Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1924.

Every individual possesses a unique set of ridges which make distinctive patterns on the fingers and hands. A person’s hair, eye colour, weight can be altered but fingerprints cannot be altered. There are three main patterns that are formed by the ridges on the fingerprints – loops, arches and whorls.

Loops originate from one side of the finger, curve upward and then exit on to the other side. 70 percent of the fingerprint patterns are made up of loops. In a loop pattern, there will also be a triangular formation, called a delta. There are two subtypes of loops – radial and ulnar. Radial loops resemble a waterfall. The lines forming the loops appear to flow towards the thumb. Ulnar loops will include delta points and also resemble a waterfall that appears to flow towards the little finger.

Arches are lines that slope upwards and then down. Delta formation is missing in this pattern. Arches constitute only 5 percent of the fingerprint pattern. Arches are of two types – simple arch and tented arch. Simple arches are characterized by smooth curved tops and are similar to hill-shaped patterns. Tented arches are characterized by sharp tips at the top and resemble a camping tent.

Whorls comprise 25 percent of the fingerprint pattern. Whorls are spiral or circular lines and consist of two or more deltas. Whorls are further classified into – concentric, spiral, composite, press, imploding and peacock’s eye. Concentric whorls are formed when lines on the fingertip appear like concentric circles. This pattern includes two delta points. Spiral whorls are formed when lines at the fingertip originate in the centre and then spirally move in the outward direction. Such a pattern formation includes two deltas. Similar to concentric whorls are press whorls except that in press whorl formation, the circles are oval-shaped, giving a more pressed like semblance. Imploding whorl pattern looks like a yin-yang symbol and has multiple circles surrounding it. When the surrounding circles are missing, then it is called a composite whorl. Similar to imploding whorl, composite whorl also resembles a yin-yang symbol. As the name truly suggests, peacock’s eye pattern consists of a spiral of more than a circle that originates at the centre and the ends of the circles are connected to form a straight line. There are two delta formations – one very close to the centre and other away from the centre.

There is also a combination pattern in which there is a mixture of two patterns like simple arches and composite whorls. Such a combination pattern often consists of two or more delta formations.

These are some of the basic types of fingerprint patterns that have been devised by fingerprint experts and examiners for easier identification. The advent of digitalization has made fingerprinting and made criminal identification much more viable and easier. These digital fingerprinting and biometric devices are even deployed by many small and large organizations, to identify their employees.

Anshuman Vardhan (have 91 posts in total)

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