Arizona cops can put suspects in a digital lineup

Arizona public safety officials are using ImageWare's SuspectID software to build a suspect's image from a pool of facial features in what one called a 'Mr. Potato Head effect.'

Arizona's law en-forcers used to have plenty of mug shots, but they were scattered in desk drawers and file cabinets.

So in 1998, Cyndy Pellien, administrative services officer for the Arizona Public Safety Department, set to work creating a statewide digital mug system that would let all Arizona law enforcement agencies electronically capture, retrieve and share photos.

In 15 counties Pellien set up the Crime Capture System, a combination image-capture device and investigative system from ImageWare Systems Inc. of San Diego.

After arrest, a suspect is fingerprinted and a mug shot taken. If the person has scars or tattoos, the law enforcement officers photograph them, too.

Remember details

'The purpose is to assist victims in identification,' Pellien said. 'The victim might not remember the face, but they might say, 'I remember a snake tattoo on the arm.' '

The system employs ImageWare's FaceID facial recognition software, which measures the relative distances of 18 points on a face, said Lori Rodriguez, an ImageWare marketing official.

Arizona now stores about 5 million images'including driver's license photos'in a Microsoft SQL Server database in JPEG format, Pellien said. The database is accessible on a secure frame-relay WAN through 56-Kbps and T1 lines.

The system captures demographic data, too. Pellien said the offices with capture stations can query the central database for names, dates of birth, scars or facial features.

Pick facial features

'You can do digital lineups by facial features,' she said. ImageWare's SuspectID 'lets you create a suspect's image from a pool of facial features. It's sort of a Mr. Potato Head effect. You can pick eyes from a series of eyes and design the face you want.'

The state has about 80 capture stations, each consisting of a Pentium PC, flatbed scanner and digital camera.

'We started a program where we interface with the corrections department,' Pellien said. 'When someone goes to prison, they have a photo taken. When they leave, they often look very different. They all lose weight and gain muscles in prison, so we take another photo.'

To help identify vehicles involved in crimes, the department uses ImageWare's VehicleID.
'We can model all kinds of cars, change the colors, even dent the fenders virtually,' Pellien said. 'We've definitely improved the sharing of information statewide.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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