Sheriff’s Dept. Confirms Real ID Drivers Licenses Now Part Of Facial Recognition System
A 1787 Network Exclusive - by Adrian Wyllie
DUNEDIN, FLORIDA – The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed this week that images taken from Florida drivers’ licenses have now been integrated into a multi-jurisdictional facial recognition database used by law enforcement agencies throughout Florida.
Since January 1, 2010, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has been in full compliance with the Real ID Act of 2005. This federal law, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, mandates that states “subject each person applying for a driver’s license or identification card to mandatory facial image capture.” These facial image caputures are required to be compatible with facial recognition software. The law also requires that these facial image captures be combined with digital scans of identification documents, such as birth certificates and social security cards, and be uploaded to a national database.
“We are in a pilot program with DHSMV,” said Scott McCallum, Administrator of Facial Recognition Systems for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO). “We also have the ability to perform a [facial recognition] search against the civilian repository, the drivers’ license data set,” McCallum said, “we’ve been able to go ahead and verify identity in near real time at street level.”
That means that all of the PCSO’s facial recognition cameras, both at fixed locations and mobile units used by deputies, can now almost instantly identify any person who has a Real ID compliant drivers’ license or state identification card.
The PCSO has long been a pioneer of facial recognition systems. In 2001, they deployed a series of video camera systems, cross-linked to facial recognition databases in the local jail, courthouse, and Sheriff’s visitor center. In 2004, they began distributing mobile facial recognition systems to 170 patrol deputies for use in citizen interdiction.
According to McCallum, 22 counties in Florida are participating in a program of sharing facial recognition data compiled from arrest records, drivers’ licenses, and other sources. McCallum claimed it is now the largest, collaborative facial recognition database in the country.
Perhaps coincidentally, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has recently finished a $3-million project to install traffic cameras at several major intersections throughout the City of Dunedin in Pinellas County. Dunedin has no municipal police force, and relies on the PCSO for all of their law enforcement services.
What makes these cameras different from red light or standard traffic monitoring cameras is that they are mounted on the traffic signal cross beams, and there are four per intersection. The cameras are directed at the windshield of the vehicle approaching the light, and could conceivably recognize the faces of the occupants. Similar cameras have begun appearing in the neighboring communities of Palm Harbor and Clearwater.
Dave Eggers, Mayor of Dunedin, said that he was told by the FDOT that the cameras were standalone, closed systems, and the images for the cameras would not be uploaded to a central location. When asked if these cameras could potentially be linked with PCSO facial recognition systems, he said, “I don’t know if there infrastructure is there or not.”
Mayor Eggers seemed uneasy when we pointed out the “gold star” on his recently-renewed Florida driver’s license, indicating that it was Real ID compliant, and that his facial identification and personal data was now part of the PCSO system, as well as a national database.
On Wednesday, a work crew was adjusting the traffic cameras at a major intersection on the main corridor in Dunedin. Curtis Mull, a traffic signal technician for Pinellas County, told 1787 Network that they were in the process of installing communication lines to the cameras, that will feed the images from the cameras to a “central control system at headquarters.” Mull expected the work to be completed within the next two to three months.
McCallum denied there were any immediate plans to include the new traffic cameras with their extensive facial recognition systems, but he did confirm that they have the capability of using their existing face recognition system with a variety of still and video images.
Wolfgang Ritter, Director of Sales and Marketing for ISS, a leading provider of facial recognition and security software, says that these systems can capture and identify a face from a moving image in 0.04 seconds, well within the amount of time required for a vehicle to pass through the traffic cameras’ field of view.
And, according to Ritter, there’s no fooling their systems. “You can grow a beard, you can lose a beard, you can gain weight, you can lose weight, you can change your sex…I’ll still get you,” said Ritter.