Forensic science international

The quantification of fingerprint quality using a relative contrast index.

PMID 18359590


Research into fingermark enhancement techniques has traditionally used visual comparisons and qualitative methods to assess their effectiveness based on the quality of the developed fingermark. However, with increasing research into the optimisation of these techniques the need for a quantitative evaluative method has arisen. Parameters for acceptable fingerprint quality are not well defined and generally encompass clear, sharp edges and high levels of contrast between the fingermark ridges and background material. Using these current parameters, a conclusive measurement of fingerprint quality and thus the effectiveness of development techniques cannot be achieved. This study presents a model through which an aspect of fingerprint quality can be objectively and impartially measured based on a relative contrast index, constructed through measuring the reflective intensity of the fingermark ridges against the background material. Using a fibre-optic spectrophotometer attached to a microscope with axial illumination, the intensity counts of the ridge detail and background material were measured and a logarithmic contrast index constructed. The microscope and spectrophotometer parameters were experimentally tested using a standard colour resolution chart with known reflective properties. The protocol was successfully applied to four sample groups: black inked fingerprints on white paper; latent fingermarks on white paper developed separately with ninhydrin and physical developer; and fingermarks in blood deposited on white tiles and enhanced with amido black. The contrast indices obtained quantitatively reflect the level of contrast and provide an indication of fingerprint quality through a numerical representation rather than previous qualitative methods. It has been suggested that the proposed method of fingerprint quantification may be viable for application in the forensic research arena as it allows the definitive measurement of contrast to aid the evaluation of fingermark detection and enhancement techniques.