Mobile eye scanning technology could protect officers from violent criminals: ‘Game changer’

Mobile eye scanning technology could protect officers from violent criminals: ‘Game changer’

  • Post category:USA
Mobile eye scanning technology could protect officers from violent criminals: ‘Game changer’

Join Fox News for access to this content

Plus special access to select articles and other premium content with your account – free of charge.

By entering your email and pushing continue, you are agreeing to Fox News’ Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which includes our Notice of Financial Incentive.

Please enter a valid email address.

Having trouble? Click here.

Clarksburg, W.V. – As the FBI celebrates 100 years of success in its fingerprint lab – formally the Biometric Services Section – leaders have an eye toward the future as advances in science and technology expand the capabilities for law enforcement.

Fingerprints can now be collected on scene with a small attachment to an agent’s cellphone. Millions of palm prints have been added to fingerprint databases. Facial recognition technology is helping investigators identify suspects.

But a new, effective option – the iris scan – is fast, accurate and reduces safety risks facing officers stopping potentially violent criminals. It’s one of the most important next-generation tools that the FBI has developed and is hoping more states will adopt.

“Iris gives the ability to have nearly the same level of identification accuracy through an iris image, and, the only thing holding us back today from using iris more in the light fingerprint is just the size of the repository,” said Brian Griffith, deputy assistant director in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) lab in West Virginia.

DOJ PANEL DENIES PAROLE TO FAR-LEFT ACTIVIST CONVICTED IN SLAYINGS OF 2 FBI AGENTS

Close-up of a blue eye with no makeup.

Iris scans can be done from as far as 3 feet away on a mobile device. They take two seconds, and results can come back is as little as eight. (iStock)

There are only about 4 million irises on file, according to authorities – compared to 162 million sets of fingerprints. 

“Iris is going to be a game-changer,” he said.

But fingerprints and other biometrics will still have a place in forensic science, noted John Fox, the FBI’s historian. Suspects don’t leave their eyes behind at crime scenes.

FBI officials gave a demo of the tech during an event at the CJIS facility in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Wednesday

GABBY PETITO URGED BRIAN LAUNDRIE TO ‘STOP CRYING’ IN LOVE LETTER TO HER KILLER RELEASED BY FBI

Roscoe Pitts fingerprints

Criminals for decades have attempted to hide their identities by altering their fingerprints. Investigators at the FBI’s CJIS Division can now easily identify suspects, even with altered prints. (Michael Ruiz/Fox News Digital)

One of its most practical current uses so far is in state jails and prisons, said CJIS Assistant Second Chief Amy Blasher.

“As they’re booking, they’re taking an iris scan, and as they’re releasing or removing that prisoner, they’re taking another picture of the iris and checking the repository,” she said. “And you would not believe how many prisoners who were … almost released [are] not the same person. So that’s one of the best use cases that we’re seeing.”

Iris-scanning software can also reject readings from prosthetic eyes or cosmetic contact lenses that shield the true iris, preventing false data from making its way into the database. 

The most advanced scanners can examine an iris from 36 inches away – meaning officers can conduct the test on a suspect in handcuffs or without having to physically touch them. It takes two seconds to conduct a scan, and results come back in as little as eight. And iris records are automatically linked to fingerprint records once entered into the FBI’s repository.

A sign at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division,

A sign at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which sits on a nearly 1,000-acre compound in Clarksburg, West Virginia. (Michael Ruiz/Fox News Digital)

Each eye has a unique iris, including among identical twins or even on the left and right side of the same person’s face, according to the FBI. They have about 240 points of identification, remain stable throughout a person’s life, and a computer image of an iris takes up just a single kilobyte of storage. 

RISK OF TERROR ATTACK ON US SOIL RISES TO ALARMINGLY HIGH LEVEL, EXPERTS WARN

Some other uses for iris technology include identifying deceased victims, instant background checks and a method to stop the erroneous release of inmates from custody. Law enforcement officers in the field could have a subject’s rap sheet at their fingertips almost immediately after a scan – including potential immigration violations.

After about four years of availability, the tools are already in use by other federal law enforcement in addition to the FBI, including Homeland Security and the Bureau of Prisons, but only a half dozen states have picked them up so far.

Al Capone fingerprints

Al Capone’s mugshot and fingerprints in a framed display provided by the FBI. The FBI’s Biometric Services Section was created 100 years ago to form a central database fro information on criminals, including their fingerprints. It has continued to evolve alongside advances in science and technology. (Michael Ruiz/Fox News Digital)

Part of the delay is awareness, part of it is the cost of the units. Depending on size and capabilities, iris scanners range in price from about $190 for a mobile unit that connects to a cellphone to about $1,300 for more powerful devices. 

FBI DIRECTOR WRAY WARNED OF TERROR THREAT POSED BY OPEN BORDER DAYS BEFORE 8 ISIS SUSPECTS ARRESTED ACROSS US

Another potential delay are privacy concerns, said Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD sergeant and cold case investigator who is an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Biometric scanners

These devices are plugged into smartphones and can collect and instantly upload biometric data. On the left, this iris scanner contains a light-blocking set of goggles to record an iris in the field without interference from the sun or other light sources. Advanced devices can scan an iris from up to three feet away. (Michael Ruiz/Fox News)

“It’s part of the FBI’s NGI – Next Generation Identification and a sign that the future is here,” he told Fox News Digital. “It’s like every other new technology, it will be weighed on by privacy advocates and courts before we see wide or even accepted uses.”

Griffith acknowledged that some critics of the program may raise privacy concerns but said the FBI is exercising extreme caution to protect American’s civil liberties while taking advantage of the new technology.

fbi iris scanner held up to persons face

Iris scanners use “near infrared light” to track the patterns of the colored ring around a person’s pupil. (FBI)

“As Iris grows, the same questions which arose around facial recognition will arise,” he said. “If I can collect an iris at a distance, there’s a slew of privacy questions that we will certainly face, but we are wrapping all of these technologies in the utmost rigor of policy to make sure that civil liberties are always protected.”

BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE: SALVAGE CREWS RACE AGAINST CLOCK AFTER FOURTH BODY FOUND, FBI LAUNCHES PROBE

Giacalone predicted the FBI will overcome those concerns to the benefit of law enforcement around the country – eventually.

“It’ll become part of the mainstream investigation angle, but it’s going to take time,” Giacalone said. “Look, they’re still fighting with facial recognition, so this won’t happen overnight.”

Fingerprint scanner

A century ago, fingerprints were taken on paper with ink. Later, early mobile digital equipment weighed 25 pounds and had to be carried in a backpack. Now investigators can an item smaller than your palm to collect and upload fingerprints from the field.

The BSS celebrated its 100th anniversary Wednesday, with FBI Director Christopher Wray visiting the CJIS lab in West Virginia to praise the work done there and credit it with solving some of the biggest criminal cases that have ever rocked the United States, including the Beltway snipers who horrified the nation’s capital for three weeks in 2002.

Wray testifies before Congress

Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Griffith called the CJIS lab “the tip of the spear” for the FBI and law enforcement. Authorities said the division plays a role in virtually all nationally significant criminal cases.

The FBI also offered demonstrations of some of the tech BSS investigators are using to assist law enforcement around the country.

Mobile fingerprint scanners, which plug into a cellphone and are around the size of a watch face were used to identify four of the six victims of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, in March.

Palm printing has been used to thwart criminals who were smart enough not to leave behind fingerprints – but not smart enough, such as a burglary suspect who peered into a window, leaving evidence behind before breaking in.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP 

Even criminals who try to alter their fingerprints by cutting open their fingertips and sewing them back together in a different pattern can be identified by expert analysts. And computer algorithms help investigators sort through a huge database of images, pulling out a few likely matches before humans make final determinations.

The FBI is hoping more agencies take advantage of its growing toolkit.

“[The issue] is certainly an awareness of the services,” Griffith said. “But we also have to understand what’s going on in our law enforcement community right now. Law enforcement staffing is down, meaning the workloads are higher. Engagement on the street is higher.They need something that is an easy go-to. We need to make sure that our services are always presented to them in the easiest, most desirable fashion.”

by FOXNews