New Camera Reads Eyes of Sex Offenders

A new biometric system will help Harris County Sheriff's Officials identify registered sex offenders and could eventually be used to identify other criminals. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the system takes a picture of a sex offender's eye and then keeps that unique photo in a web-based registry.

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"Please look into the mirror. Please open your eyes wider."

A camera that looks a lot like what you'd see at a driver's license office sits on a desk and is hooked up to a computer. Harris County will be the first in Texas to use what is known as the SORIS system. Robert Melley is with the company that makes the system, BI2 Technologies.

"The SORIS stands for Sex Offender Registry and Identification System and it utilizes iris recognition, which is the colored part around your pupil. The iris has 235 characteristics versus a fingerprint which has about 70. It's the most unique identifier on a human body and the verification of the identification can be done within seconds versus a period of maybe two or three weeks."ξ

A look at the SORIS System in use on a laptopThe SORIS system costs about $10,000 and is already in use in parts of California, New Mexico, Louisiana and Georgia. BI2 Technologies has donated a system to the Harris County Sheriff's Department that will be used to register sex offenders at the department's Lockwood office. This is Sheriff's Lt. Ruben Diaz.

"It's the newest technology that's out right now and the sheriff's office is always striving to be a leader in law enforcement technology and we want to do everything we can to be in the forefront trying to find new, innovative ways in which to better identify these sex offenders so we can track them without any doubt as to who their identity is."ξ

Sex offenders will soon have to register up to four times a year under provisions in Adam's Law, aξ tougher law signed by President Bush last year. Diaz says the new SORIS system will streamline the process of making sure sex offenders are who they say they are.

"The idea will be that they'll come and register as they would have before this technology and then they'll also get an iris recognition picture taken, that way when they return they'll just sit in the chair and they'll recognize that person as the correct guy coming a second time."

Officials say they'd like to eventually expand the technology to identify other criminals. Officers could also eventually use handheld units that would be carried in the field to identify sex offenders.

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