Warning! Not for the faint of heart! A Florida man, recently arrested for driving a stolen Mercedes, spent his time detained in the police vehicle attempting to bite off his own fingerprints!
Don’t worry. The video above, while super weird, isn’t that graphic. Mostly because the man in question was ultimately unsuccessful in removing said fingerprints, which were later easily identified by the police scanner.
Old-school Gangster Tactics
Fingerprint-ectomies aren’t new to the criminal world. The first reported case happened in 1933, when gang leader Theodore “Handsome Jack” Klutas was found to have filed down his fingers to obscure his prints. Two members of Kate “Ma” Barker’s clan had a doctor surgically slice their fingerprints off. But just like their modern Floridian counterpart, none of these attempts were successful. The prints either grew back or weren’t obscured enough to prevent identification.
One reasonably successful case was John Dillinger, who in the same Depression era gave his fingers the chemical treatment, burning them with acid to remove all but the faintest trace of his distinctive ridges.
Pain But No Gain
If you’re considering removing your fingerprints and aren’t fazed by the most obvious deterrent (i.e., extreme pain), here’s another pretty good reason not to remove them: it usually doesn’t even work. Medical research suggests you have to penetrate not only the epidermis but the generating layer that retains the template of your fingerprint to do any permanent damage to your prints. Otherwise they’ll just grow back.
And if you succeed and permanently scar your fingers? Congratulations, you’ve just made it even easier for police to identify you! “Hey, Bill, who do you think left these fingerprints with the weird scar pattern?” “Oh, probably that guy that tried to cut his own fingerprints off when we arrested him last time” “Cool, let’s go round him up again”.
As biometrics gets more and more invasive, we can probably expect to see criminals go to greater, more dangerous lengths to evade identification.
If iris scanners can identify you from 40 feet away, how far are we from the Minority Report dystopia of removing your eyeballs to escape detection? And if subdermal microchip implants ever become standard, won’t more criminals resort to self-surgery to remove them?
Going off the grid will mean going under the knife, and staying anonymous will be a bloody undertaking.
In the meantime, if you do find yourself arrested—wrongfully or not—do yourself a favor, save yourself the trouble, and keep your fingers intact.