Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Comments

Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Criminal Justice in the Graduate College of Bridgewater State University, 2015

Degree Program

Criminal Justice

Degree Type

Master of Science


Currently existing is minimal research on the concepts: tattoo identification procedures and information sharing challenges among law enforcement. This research contributes to the literature by examining: how Massachusetts police officers feel about tattoo identification, how they catalog tattoos, and the effectiveness of their technology to share information among departments about suspect’s tattoos. This research is unique because it evaluates whether or not tattoo identification procedures affect information sharing challenges.

Tattoos have a history dating back at least 5,000 years, in fact, an archeological find in the 1990s, was a mummy with 57 tattoos (Kent & Graber, 2012). Presently, tattoo popularity continues to grow. As a result, in the United States alone, an estimated total of 7 to 20 million people have tattoos (Palermo, 2011).

Sharing identifiable markings, for instance tattoos, is significant, because it provides police with supplementary identification information. In the 20th century, law enforcement expanded the scope of information sharing for a few reasons: the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, advancements in technology, increased capabilities in suspects’ mobility, and suspects’ ability to commit cross jurisdictional crimes. (Meeker & Villa, 2000; Marks & Sun, 2007).

The contribution from the findings of this research to the literature is that, 100% of the surveyed officers feel tattoos are useful supplementary information. Additionally, these officers lack adequate tattoo identification training, a unified record keeping system for cataloging tattoos, and their police departments lag behind in technology capabilities and compatibilities to share information about suspects’ tattoos with other departments.


Jennifer Hartsfield (thesis director)

Carolyn Petrosino

Richard Wright