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FBI Shreds Millions of Paper Files in Move to Digital Records

The FBI has done away with millions upon millions of paper files, stashed in rows of cabinets, as it moves to an all-digital records system. Over 30 million records and more than 80 million fingerprint cards are headed to the shredder, putting an end to a system that has been in place for almost a century. Its collection of fingerprints and info cards dates to the 1920s, and although methods have improved since then, the paper records were in use as late as the '90s.

This enormous collection made for effective, if time-consuming, detective work. A national fingerprint database meant criminals could be tracked across borders, though it might take months to classify, pull, compare and report on the relevant files. That takes just seconds now thanks to modern computing, and the cabinets that were once full of paper records stand empty, their contents copied onto hard drives. A few historic items have been retained, though: the fingerprint cards and paper records for major criminals like Al Capone and John Dillinger. The conversion to digital should be done and the new system operational in September.

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—Devin Coldewey