Fingerprint kits are kits which contain the materials necessary to identify fingerprints and to collect them so that they can be used in analysis. Forensic technicians often carry fingerprint kits in the bags they take to the field, and they are also kept in law enforcement agencies for the purpose of working in the lab. Various commercial versions are available as well, primarily as novelty items for people interested in the art and science of fingerprinting.
While many people are familiar with the concept of fingerprints and the fact that they can be used in identification, many are not aware that collecting usable fingerprints from a scene is actually a bit complicated. Fingerprints can be pulled from a wide variety of materials, with skill, but the collection process can damage or destroy fingerprints, which eliminates the possibility of trying again if a mistake is made. Fingerprint kits contain a number of tricks of the trade which can be used in fingerprinting.
A kit can contain powder which is used to bring up latent prints, along with strips which can be used to lift fingerprints from surfaces. Gloves, to prevent contamination, are also kept in a fingerprint kit, along with tools like brushes for applying powder, and other instruments which an individual forensic technician may find useful. Ideally, technicians prefer to lift prints in the lab, collecting items which can be fingerprinted for processing and only fingerprinting large items which cannot be moved from the scene.
The term “fingerprint kit” is also used to refer to a mail order form which can be used to collect fingerprints. In this context, fingerprint kits are sometimes used by parents who want their children to be on file with law enforcement in the event of an abduction or a similar matter. Having up to date photographs, fingerprints, and other identifying information can be helpful when trying to find a missing or abducted child, and some police stations hand out fingerprint kits free of charge or hold fingerprinting days for local children.
Fingerprint kits for novelty use often have basic supplies with simple directions so that people can full fingerprints from surfaces which hold them well. They may also have magnifying glasses which can be used to compare fingerprints, and some contain booklets about the history and practice of fingerprinting. Novelty kits may include some of the same fingerprinting materials used by professional forensic technicians.