St. Tammany using eye-scanning technology to track felons, sex offenders

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 10, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 10 at 9:00 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

COVINGTON, La. -- Authorities in St. Tammany Parish are taking their operation into the future.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office has new iris-scanning equipment that you’ve likely seen on crime television shows, but now it will be in your face if booked into the St. Tammany Parish Jail.

Six months ago, the jail installed two scanners that record the colored part of the eye of anyone booked on a felony, or any sex offender registered with the sheriff’s office. Four handheld scanners are also on the streets just to make sure those sex offenders are where they’re supposed to be.

"The recidivism rate among sex offenders is probably the highest in all of the crime categories we watch, so we're taking the steps just to keep everybody honest," said Sheriff Jack Strain.

The scan, if done on someone arrested before, includes a full criminal record and full face picture for deputies to access in the blink of an eye.

Soon, the technology will be with detectives on warrant round-ups to make sure the right person is arrested every time.

"Many times, not often, not daily, but it certainly is a possibility that an offender can try to mislead law enforcement and move," said Strain.

The ACLU says it doesn't understand the need for this new technology and calls it intrusive. But one defense attorney we talked to says he doesn't see the difference between a picture of your eye and your thumbprint.

"The government has held in court cases over and over again that the law enforcement have a right to fingerprint anybody that they arrest, that they have a right to take a DNA swab in most states," said Marion Farmer.

 

All of the pictures recorded go into a national database for only law enforcement to access. Almost 4,500 have been taken in St. Tammany so far, about 300 of those from sex offenders.

The cost of the devices, which runs around $3,000 a piece, is covered by fees collected from the sex offender registration program.

 

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