Shell Shocked: Will noseprints overtake fingerprints in fighting crime?
The year is 2050 and police departments throughout the country are baffled. Fingerprints, the standard for identifying literally millions of Americans, are no longer effective.
An elite group of computer programmers has broken the fingerprint code. They have found a way to evade recognition by inventing an antidote to accurate fingerprints the finger ‘postor. The finger ‘postor is a device that immediately alters the base fingerprint pattern on any finger of both hands and creates false fingerprints that lead to false identification.
The finger ‘postor will steal anyone’s current fingerprints and place them on the fingers of someone else. This was first detected when a bank was robbed in Sanibel in 2050. The perpetrator wore a President Chelsea Clinton facemask and did the deed in finger flagrante delicto. The thief got away with $10,000 in cash and 500 robotic toasters which the bank was offering to its best customers.
But it appeared that the perpetrator had tripped himself up. He left fingerprints galore on the countertop by a teller’s cage. The Sanibel police envisioned a quick resolution to this crime and checked the national fingerprint files. The police were excited when they found a match. The match led them to an address on West Gulf Drive and six squad cars surrounded the house.
“Come out with your hands up,” the police chief shouted through an Apple bullhorn. “We know you did it.”
The front door opened slowly and an elder lady gingerly walked through it using an Apple cane. The police were baffled.
“Are you Pat Smith?” they shouted.
“Yes, I am,” said Mrs. Smith. “What can I do for you gentlemen? I already contributed to the police ball last month.”
Puzzled, the police ventured forward slowly.
“May we take your fingerprints, madam?”
“Yes, of course,” she replied. “Only if you promise I can frame them and hang them in my kitchen.”
The police used their mobile Apple fingerprint kit and went through the motions of dousing her fingers in ink and placing her fingers on the police blotter. They immediately checked her prints and verified that they matched the prints of the bank thief.
The police chief had to ask the standard question: “Madam, your prints match those taken from the person who robbed the bank a few days ago. Where were you the afternoon of May 1?”
“Why I was at Lee Memorial taking an Apple chest X-Ray. But I do wish I was at the bank when the robbery occurred. I haven’t had much excitement in my life since my husband went over Niagara Falls in an Apple barrel some 70 years ago.”
The police checked with Lee Memorial and found that Mrs. Smith’s story held up. But they were stymied that the bank robber had the same fingerprints as Mrs. Smith. They surmised that somewhere along the line someone had gotten hold of Mrs. Smith’s fingerprints and placed them on their own fingers by way of the finger ‘postor. The fact that Mrs. Smith was 92 years old and a weekly church-goer removed all doubts about her culpability or desire to rob a bank.
This freak situation quickly became the norm and not the exception. Fingerprints could no longer be relied on to identify perpetrators. Perpetrators were making use of the underground ‘postor to steal the prints of innocent people which led to wild goose chases and false accusations.
Police forces throughout the country and throughout the world were rounding up innocent people whose fingerprints matched those that appeared at crime scenes. The police forces collectively reached out to Apple to come up with a crime-busting tool that would replace fingerprints. Apple programmers explored every new technology, and panic ensued as criminals left their fingerprints everywhere and thumbed their noses at the police.
One day, in an Apple think tank, a smallish, bookish computer programmer shouted, “I’ve got it. I found the answer.”
The entire Apple staff gathered around him in eager anticipation. This programmer was a star at Apple and enjoyed a reputation for saving countless marriages by having invented automatic devices to put toilet seats back down and caps back onto toothpaste tubes.
He shouted, “I’ve found the alternative to fingerprints. It’s noseprints. Each person has a different size nose and each nose is made up of unique lines and wrinkles that are different from any other nose. We can program every nose in America and replace the fingerprint on police databases. It’s fool proof.”
One member of the Apple team was puzzled. “But when an alleged criminal commits a crime, he leaves fingerprints at the scene of the crime. Even if we had that perp’s noseprint, where would he leave it at a crime scene? Will he be sniffing the teller’s counter while he’s robbing a bank?”
The brilliant lab technician was stuck for an answer. He couldn’t quite figure out how a noseprint would solve a crime. It was back to the drawing board.
Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.