Eye-dentification: Sheriff to fight crime with iris-scanning system

BROWNSVILLE — The border sheriff’s departments of Cameron and El Paso counties will be the first to get their hands on “biometric” identification technology.

The technology combines iris-scanning with fingerprint- and facial-recognition capabilities, with the goal of increasing border security and weeding out criminals.

Obtaining this was part of a partnership approved by the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition at a a recent meeting in Austin.

Following a presentation by BI2 Technologies President Sean Mullin, the SBSC’s membership voted unanimously for the deal to equip all 31 U.S. sheriff’s departments along the U.S.-Mexico border with the technology.

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said he was impressed by Mullin’s presentation and jumped at the chance to implement Massachusetts-based BI2’s IRIS technology on a pilot basis.

He said the system will be installed at department headquarters and used in the intake/booking process, and may eventually be used in the field with handheld scanning devices.

The system will give the department instant access to national, state and local law-enforcement and criminal-justice databases.

Lucio said it’s not unusual for people caught entering the United States illegally from Mexico to give fake names and dates of birth.

Once they’re in the IRIS system, however, they won’t be able to conceal their true identities or arrest histories, he said.

“Once we scan them I don’t care what name they give you, we’re going to find out if they have an arrest record and when and where they were arrested,” Lucio said. “It’s just a great tool for law enforcement. It really helps in the long run. We’re really excited about it and looking forward to start working with it.”

BI2 is providing the system free to the Cameron County and El Paso County sheriff’s departments for three years, and is seeking federal funds to cover the complete rollout. The cost is $2,500 per device each year.

“We don’t have to pay anything for it, which is great,” Lucio said.

Lawrence “Larry” Guerra, SBSC executive director, said the technology should be installed and operational in the first two counties by April 24, noting that it’s compatible with the records-management systems used by most sheriff’s departments.

“I don’t think we can go wrong with that technology,” Guerra said. “It’s just an additional tool to keep our communities safe.”

How does iris recognition work?

* Iris recognition biometric technology positively

determines the identity of an individual by capturing a high-resolution digital photograph of the individual’s iris. The unique features contained in the iris are compared against a database and the identity of the individual determined.

* The technology is non-intrusive — the indi-vidual does not need to touch anything to use the system. Automatic voice prompting, auto focus, plus enrollment and rec-ognition speed make the system easy to use. An individual is detected automatically upon ap-proaching the digital cam-era. A glance at the camera lens from a 3 to 10-inch distance allows the camera to photograph the iris image, which is digitally processed into an iris template.

Source: Biometric Intelligence and Identification Technologies (BI² Technologies)