It’s National Forensic Science Week, and Thursday, FOX21 got an inside look at how the Colorado Bureau of Investigation matches fingerprints to criminals.

At the CBI crime lab in Pueblo West, fingerprint examiners showed how to identify and match fingerprints, including one of the oldest methods, using magnetic black powder.

Another way to identify the prints is by looking at them underneath a laser. When a print is found, a photo is taken and then an image is generated immediately on a nearby screen.

Once a print is identified, it’s processed through a system known as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which compares prints to a huge database of criminals.

Forensic scientists say it is extremely rewarding to find a print and its match, because it brings relief to not only the investigation, but also to victims’ families.

“Solving a crime for the victims, they depend on that,” Shawn West, Laboratory Director of the Pueblo Regional Laboratory, said. “They are thinking about that crime and how it affects them every day.”

With all the techniques used to identify prints, the Colorado fingerprint database now has about 3.1 million people documented. 

According to fingerprint examiners, if a print is found but has no match, it’s kept in the database for future cases.

“Most of these people who are committing these crimes are doing it over and over again, so they’re in the system,” forensic scientist Huyen Vu said.

Fingerprints have been used to solve crimes in the U.S. for 116 years now. Nearly 1,500 cases have already been submitted for fingerprint analysis in 2018.