So desperate was one man to conceal his identity that he began biting his fingers and drawing blood while being booked.
Some have used eyedroppers filled with acid or pressed their fingers onto burning metal to blot their fingerprints. Others have spent thousands of dollars to hire shady doctors to surgically alter their fingertips, hoping to scar them beyond recognition.
The numbers are still relatively small, but in the past decade, State Police detectives say they have seen a sevenfold spike in people arrested with mutilated fingertips, a disturbing trend they said reflects dire efforts to evade the harsher punishments that come with multiple arrests, to avoid deportation, or to fool the increasingly sophisticated computers that do most fingerprint checks.
Since 2002, when State Police started to keep count of suspects with deliberately scarred fingerprints, they have recorded 72 arrests, 20 of which occurred last year. There were just three when they began keeping records.