The automated system enables law enforcement and intelligence analysts to quickly compare photographs of suspects against large databases of images, such as mug shot, driver’s license, or terrorist watch lists, and make identifications within seconds.
Located in the Seattle Metropolitan area, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) became the first law enforcement agency in the
“[MFI] eliminates 80 to 85 percent of the work in booking repeat offenders,” said Steve Wilkins, PCSD Forensic Investigations Manager. “Within minutes, the criminal record can be updated.”
PCSD took the MFI application a step further in September to help break up a local identity theft ring that had been stealing ATM cards and using them to withdraw money from the victims’ bank accounts. The only evidence obtained by detectives was a grainy photograph taken of a suspect by an ATM camera during one of the fraudulent transactions. Despite the poor quality of the photo, MFI searched the 350,000-mug shot digital database and returned two possible matches in less than 5 seconds.
Upon review, the detectives confirmed that both matches were the same person with a prior history of identity theft. When presented with the strong identification provided by facial biometrics and the suspect’s prior history, the Superior Court judge felt compelled to issue an order to search the suspect’s residence. At the scene, PCSD officers found sufficient evidence of identity theft – possibly involving many more victims than previously known – and placed the suspect under arrest. A trial is pending.