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Monday, 12 October 2009 11:21

Facial Recognition Technology - From the Desk of Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats Oct 2009

Written by  Sheriff Jim Coats
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Pinellas County Sheriff Jim CoatsWe recently unveiled a new and innovative Facial Recognition Partnership with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The partnership is the first of its kind in the state and in the nation.

This pilot project allows the Sheriff’s Office to interface with DHSMV to conduct facial recognition queries of subjects against the DHSMV’s driver’s license records. The driver’s license images are retained and managed by the DHSMV; only query results are returned to the Sheriff’s Office for our use in the identification of subjects by our deputies and detectives.

The pilot project, which went on-line in early August of this year, was made possible with the assistance of Electra Theodorides-Bustle, former Executive Director of the DHSMV, who partnered with us in this effort. Currently, the pilot project has the capability to query the DL records of two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough. We are looking forward to additional expansion in the very near future.

The Sheriff’s Office has had a facial recognition system in place since 2001. The establishment of the system was accomplished through the work of Congressman Bill Young, who secured the funding necessary to set up the system. Our facial recognition system today is credited with a multitude of successful identifications of subjects. These identifications have solved cases, lead to arrests or simply served to identify individuals our deputies have encountered in their routine work with the public.

The system is used daily at the Pinellas County Jail. All persons who are booked into the jail are entered into the Facial Recognition database. The database is widely used by our investigators and our deputies on the road.

In 2004, we expanded the use of facial recognition to the patrol cars in order to provide deputies on the street the ability to identify subjects who had been stopped and had no means of identification. At this time a total of 170 of our patrol vehicles are equipped with the mobile identification system. With this in-car technology, deputies can take an image of a person using a digital camera, place the camera into a docking station in the patrol car and with the push of a single button transfer the image to the laptop. The image is then enrolled into the system for searching against the database. Within thirty seconds the deputy is presented with the closest matches to the subject in a gallery rank ordered format.

The mobile system has had its share of successful identifications: nearly five-hundred positive identifications resulting in arrests; and as many positive identifications where no arrests was required.

In addition, we have also established numerous partnerships with Law Enforcement Agencies across the state, and currently have more than eight-million images enrolled into our facial recognition system.

The new partnership with DHSMV will further expand these capabilities. We are pleased to work with the state agency and are convinced that this venture will be an extremely effective tool in our daily law enforcement work, keeping the citizens of Pinellas safe.

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