BENTON — A rural southeast Missouri sheriff's department is the first in the state to install iris recognition software in an effort to help identify missing people — especially children and senior citizens.
Police agencies around the country are turning to the iris recognition software, which they say could eventually replace child fingerprinting as the main resource to identify missing or abducted children. About 300 agencies nationwide now use the software.
Among them is the Scott County Sheriff's Department. The equipment cost about $5,000 and was developed by Massachusetts-based Biometric Intelligence & Identification Technologies.
The system works by taking a photo of an individual's irises, which, like fingerprints, don't change in the course of development. The image is stored for use in a national database.
The money to buy the equipment came from the inmate security fund. The sheriff's department has already begun training on the system, which includes two packages, Senior Safety Net and the Child Project.
"It's got a lot of good uses," Scott County Lt. Jerry Bledsoe said.
The primary intent is for the identification of missing children when they are found by police in other states, Albany County Sheriff Jim Pond, president of Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, told the Southeast Missourian newspaper.
"It's just like child fingerprinting, but the iris is more accurate than a fingerprint," Pond said.
The more law enforcement agencies across the country that participate in the programs, the more useful the databases will be, Pond said. The state of Wyoming recently adopted the software and has installed nine units statewide.
In addition to using the systems to create a safety net for missing persons, the Scott County department plans to use the software to help track and monitor the movements of sex offenders, both those registered in Scott County and those who may move to the area from other states.