Actual Factual DeKalb: Why don’t cops dust for prints at burglaries?

This is "Actual Factual DeKalb," a regular column in which I answer reader questions about goings-on and history in DeKalb County.

Reader Jarrod H. asks: Why doesn't the Dekalb County Police Department dust for fingerprints when a burglary has been reported?

Well, Jarrod, it’s a touch complex. 

First, let me inform the other readers of your plight: Jarrod says his home has been burglarized twice, and no one checked for fingerprints either time.

“So,” he wonders, “how exactly are they supposed to link any of the crimes together, or charge someone with more than one crime?”

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I got some answers related to that question, too, but let’s start with the initial one.

It’s true:

If your house is burglarized, the DeKalb County Police Department likely won’t dust for prints. 

Maj. Stephen Fore, agency spokesman, calls the practice uncommon for the department, something only done occasionally.

“For prints to yield any results we have to have someone to compare the print with,” Fore says. “An example where prints might be taken is if a detective has a suspect or believes a series of burglaries might be related and there’s a possibly of prints at the scene.”

Here’s the deal, though:

Fingerprints in a burglary aren’t always as common as we tend to think, Fore says. They often come from areas touched by plenty of people and, thus, the crook’s prints overlap with anyone’s prints. 

Plus, prints can’t be taken from all surfaces.

So how do they solve these cases?

Fore says most burglaries that get solved are ones in which the perpetrators are caught in the act or the stolen items are tracked down. 

And what can you do, Jarrod?

I hate to say it, but I have only one tip. It’s weak. Something you’ve probably already thought of, and something I highly doubt will soothe the insult of suffering two burglaries.

But here it is:

Write down your serial numbers so the cops can track your stolen stuff. 

— I am a staff writer with the AJC and a proud DeKalb County resident. To submit “Actual Factual DeKalb” questions, contact me at, @JoshuaWSharpe on Twitter or via the form below.

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