Calhoun Sheriff's Office welcomes new crime fighting tool

By Dixon Hayes

ANNISTON, AL (WBRC) - A new system in the Calhoun County Jail is the first of its kind in Alabama. It scans irises and matches them to a database.

Sheriff Larry Amerson says the new system came online in his office Tuesday. A federal grant pays for the system through the National Sheriff's Association.  It's a pilot program involving one other municipality, Los Angeles County, California.

The system involves two cameras--one takes a picture of the person's face, the other photographs his eyes. "It's nothing more than a regular digital photograph," says Sean Mullin, President and CEO of BI2 Technologies, "except that it's a little higher resolution and it runs at high speed."

"You take that picture, you put it in the database, and it takes just a second to take another photo to compare it and see if there's a match," says Sheriff Larry Amerson.

The database is a national database that would also connect Calhoun County to other local agencies.

Amerson says he plans to use the system at first, mostly for his sex offender database.  But there are other possibilities as well, including records of children and Alzheimer's patients in case they ever go missing.

Had the department bought this out of its own budget it would've cost $10,000.  For another $4,000 they could get field units, which look and function like something Mullin calls "an iPhone on steriods."

Copyright 2010 WBRC. All rights reserved.