Fla. sheriff adds biometrics to bookings

Pinellas County, Fla., is using biometrics tools from Viisage Technology Inc. of Littleton, Mass., to verify identities in the county's 3,000-bed correctional facility.

Staff members take digital images of the individuals as soon as their arresting officers turn them over to the Sheriff's Office.

At that point, county officials compare the image to a database of more than 525,000 digital images of people who have been booked in Pinellas County since 1994.

The Viisage algorithm translates the characteristics of a face into a set of computer-readable numbers, called an eigenface. Eigen is German for 'own' or 'individual.'

The Viisage tool combs through the Oracle9i database and turns up the top 50 matches within 3 seconds, said Lt. Jim Main of the sheriff's office.

The software will show if the person at the booking station had been in jail previously, as well as more detailed information, such as whether the person had caused trouble in jail before, he said.

All this happens at the front door, Main said.

The office then takes the traditional mug shots: frontal, side and close-ups of tattoos and scars. These digital photos are then sent statewide over Florida's highly secured law enforcement network. More than 2,500 law enforcement officers throughout the state can view the mug shots via a browser.

The digital photos are in JPEG format, with a resolution of 640 dpi by about 420 dpi, and comply with National Institute of Standards and Technology law enforcement standards, Main said.

The database, launched about 18 months ago, has received about 329,000 visits, he said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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