Catching International Crooks in the 1930s... by their Fingertips
Catching International Crooks in the
1930s... by their Fingertips
A Byte Out of FBI History. March
Source : FBI, Washington D.C.
Photograph of Escaped
federal Prisoner Identification Card (FBI
1910: Six prisoners at Leavenworth Penitentiary
jumped the train engineer in the prison yard and forced him to steam them out
of the prison to freedom. Within hours five of the men were recaptured.
Frank Grigware, a
convicted train robber, remained at large...for 24 years.
1934: A Canadian by the name of Jim Fahey, down
on his luck in Depression times and hoping to sell some fur pelts for food,
was caught trapping marten foxes out of season. Although he was a respected
citizen of Peace River in northern Canada and had even served as its mayor, he
was apprehended. Royal Canadian Mounties followed procedure and sent his
fingerprints to Headquarters. To the surprise of all, his prints registered a
hit. Fahey was wanted by the FBI under the name of...Frank
exchange of fingerprints at such an early era ?
In fact, yes–thanks to the farsightedness of a
Mr. L.C. Schilder of the Bureau's fledgling Identification Division.
Mr. Schilder, assigned to that Division after it
was created in 1924 as a national fingerprint repository, was impressed by cases
in the U.S. that were solved through fingerprint identification. Why don't we
formally expand the program to other countries, he suggested to FBI Director
Hoover in 1931.
Hoover wasted no time, quickly sounding out major
law enforcement authorities in Europe. Mr. Borgerhoff, Directeur du Service
d'Identification Judiciare in Brussels responded immediately: "[We are] only too
pleased to co-operate." Others followed suit.
And so 72 years ago this month, in March 1932,
the Bureau's International Fingerprint Exchange program formally began–with
agencies in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and in
Canada...at which point Mr. Fahey/Grigware was identified in that small Canadian
town as a convicted U.S. train robber.
And how does
international fingerprint exchange work today ?
Just about seamlessly–law
enforcement agencies around the world simply submit requests through
Interpol...or directly request the agency of a specific country. In our
case, international police can send a request to the closest FBI Legal Attaché
Take the case of
Top Tenner Hopeton Eric Brown, slain in a shootout with police in Montego
Bay, Jamaica, this month. The Jamaica Constabulary Force contacted the FBI's
Santo Domingo Legal Attaché office, which forwarded the prints to our Special
Processing Center in West Virginia. A 100% positive match!