Iowa Looks To Use Facial Recognition Technology For Sex Offender - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Iowa Looks To Use Facial Recognition Technology For Sex Offenders

Updated: Dec 18, 2012 10:31 PM CST

There's a new tool to help law enforcement in cases involving sex offenders. It involves using facial recognition technology to ultimately match mug shots to other images in an investigation.

Iowa plans to arm every sheriff's department with it. The plan is to now digitize all sex offender mug shots. The mugs are saved into a database, where the facial mapping technology can then be used to cross reference everything from surveillance video, to pictures online. If it's an investigation involving an already registered sex offender this can help lead to a positive identification much quicker.

"It's like finding a fingerprint on a crime scene. It would be one more piece of evidence we have," said Detective Peter Bawden with the Scott County Sheriff's Department.

There are more than 5,600 registered sex offenders in Iowa and just over 320 of them are in Scott County. All are required submit to a photograph as part of their registry and soon that picture could be utilized in more ways.

"They're going to take known photographs of sex offenders, not general public, and use those photographs to be flagged or used and cross checked for investigative purposes," he added. Detective Bawden oversees the sex offender registry for Scott County. Agencies across the state expect new equipment which will work with facial recognition software. It can be used for something as simple as verifying the identity of a sex offender, but even help crack other cases.

"Find sex offenders that may be suspects in something else if they were on film of have a picture of them." For example, surveillance video if there's a child abduction. Or down the road possibly get cross referenced with something like the Department of Transportation to help prevent a sex offender from getting a fake ID.

"Possibly to get employment somewhere like a school or daycare somewhere they shouldn't be allowed."

The software could have come into play several times in Scott County recently with issues involving facebook. Detective Bawden says he has high expectations with biometrics, technology like this, beginning to play a bigger role in investigations.

"If nothing else cancel out suspects or positively identify them a lot quicker than we're able to with what we have now," he added.

So far a federal grant is paying for the hardware, cameras, computers and electronic signature pads. The state is seeking another $180,000 to pay for software and training to digitize thousands of mug shots.