Sheriff's Department to add license plate and eye scanning technologies

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 | 6:33 p.m. CST; updated 9:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Steve Ruch, a representative of SureScan Technology, demonstrates how to use an iris scanner. Iris scanners will be used by the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff's Department for identification purposes. Each eye has 240 points used for identification. The scanners will be used as a complement to fingerprinting.

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Sheriff’s Department is adding two new technologies, one for scanning license plates and the other for scanning eyes, after receiving a $200,000 Community Oriented Policing Services technology grant. 

Capt. Chad Martin said the sheriff's department hopes to mount automated license plate readers on two sheriff patrol cars and two police cars as well as incorporate biometric identification systems in Boone County jails. Both were on display at a Tuesday morning news conference.


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The automated license plate readers, provided by ELSAG North America, will record the license plates of all vehicles the patrol car passes. The numbers will be cross-referenced with wanted or stolen cars housed in Boone County's information technology department server, and an alarm will sound on a deputy's laptop if a wanted car is encountered. License plates that do not match the server data will be purged in 60 days.

Matthew Maxwell, the regional operations manager for ELSAG, said the software will also be used to pick up stolen license plates, wanted people and Amber Alerts while allowing deputies to focus on driving. The software will also aid investigations because a suspect’s vehicle can be looked up, linked to a location and time and used as evidence.

Because the software cannot recognize which states the plates are from, officers will be responsible for matching a license plate number, triggering an alarm to the correct state.

In a recent 60-day trial of the automated plate readers by the Sheriff’s Department and Columbia Police Department, 150,000 reads were collected. The Sheriff’s Department arrested six people and recovered five stolen license plates. The police made 10 arrests and cleared multiple warrants.

The second technology the department will incorporate are forms of biometric identification, including portable iris enrollment and recognition devices. These devices take high resolution pictures of the eye, which house 240 points of reference, and can be used to record and monitor inmates. The process is not the same as a retina scan, which uses a laser.

Inmates will be scanned as they leave and enter prison — for example, to go to court — as a way to document their whereabouts. Portable units can also be taken to the scene of crimes.

“It is the most accurate and fastest biometric solution to identify someone,” said Mike Southard, a representative of Sure Scan Technology, a reseller of L-1 Identity Solutions, which provide the products.

Martin said the goal of both programs is to one day have all Missouri counties adapt these technologies so that law enforcement offices can consolidate their servers.

Funding used to pay for the technology is part of a three-year series of grants procured by the Central Missouri Regional Justice Information System, a coalition of law enforcement agencies formed to combat lacking technology. Former Rep. Kenny Hulshof allocated the $200,000 grant from the $1.45 million awarded to Missouri in year two, and gave it to BooneCounty through the COPS program, said Jasper County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Merriman, who helped manage the justice information system's request for funds.

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