Facial recognition technology helping ADOT catch criminals - Tucson News Now

Facial recognition technology helping ADOT catch criminals

(Source: Arizona Department of Transportation) (Source: Arizona Department of Transportation)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A simple photo at the Motor Vehicle District isn’t as simple as point, click, and shoot anymore. Arizona Department of Transportation staff members are catching criminals by digging deeper into the picture.
 
Facial recognition technology is being implemented. Ryan Harding, a public information officers with ADOT, said they’re using it to track down fraud and theft. According to a news release, facial recognition allows detectives to compare a photo against others in the driver license database to ensure a person isn’t fraudulently obtaining an ID card.
 
"If it finds one it'll flag it and it'll send it to our detectives. They'll take a good, closer look,” Harding said.
 
Harding explained that since they started using the technology in 2015, the department has had about 100 cases where they’ve been able to arrest a suspect, or present the case to county attorneys for prosecution. Harding said the department paid about $380,000 for the software, with most of the cost covered by a federal grant.

The news release states that the latest case began when Sharon Forrest, 51, applied for a driver license in early February. A review found that the Casa Grande resident’s photo closely resembled two other photos in ADOT’s database, and ADOT detectives with FBI training in facial recognition determined that all three photos were of Forrest.

The investigation found that Forrest had allegedly used stolen identities to get “Social Security benefits, Department of Economic Security assistance,
settlement payments and veteran benefits.”
 
Forrest was arrested March 1 and booked into the Maricopa County Jail on eight counts of forgery and one count of identity theft, according to ADOT officials.
 
“We make sure we’ve got solid evidence before advancing one of our cases. This is not a science fiction scenario where the computer determines potential fraud all by itself,” said Michael Lockhart, chief of the Office of Inspector General, in a news release.
 
Harding reiterated that it's not just a computer calling all the shots, but that human detectives are involved at every level.
 
"We want to make sure that our detectives are looking at it. Because what it does - the system will find a likely match. But it may not be exact. So our detectives will look at it and make sure that it's exactly a match. And they're trained through FBI facial recognition training, so they know what to look for. They know how to spot differences or similarities in two faces,” he explained.

The technology gets up close and personal with your facial features, trying to spot potential matches. “The eyes, the cheeks, the nose. You know, everything. How high the cheek bones are,” Harding described.
 
He said the technology the next logical step for their department, and that he doesn’t see it stopping anytime soon.
 
“It has that strike of futurism, right? Facial recognition - you see it on TV shows, movies, and stuff like that. This is where we're at. We have this technology available to us. And it does help."

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