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Pasco County jail gains ability to identify John Does with facial recognition software

An inmate refused to give his correct name, but Pasco Deputy Keith Adams shows how he used new software to find out.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

An inmate refused to give his correct name, but Pasco Deputy Keith Adams shows how he used new software to find out.

LAND O'LAKES — The man was arrested by Zephyrhills police for a slew of charges, from uttering a forged instrument to possessing three fake driver's licenses.

He refused to give jail officials his name. But Deputy Keith Adams wasn't worried.

Adams snapped a picture June 27 of the anonymous inmate, then ran the image through the Pasco County Sheriff's Office's new facial recognition system.

Two photos of Scott Spate popped up. One was Spate's mug shot from an arrest in Pinellas County, and the other was a mug shot from the state Department of Corrections.

"He said he'd never seen any technology like that," said Adams.

To outwit inmates who refuse to give their names to jail officials, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office began using facial recognition software two weeks ago.

It was provided through a $3.5 million grant that the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office received from the U.S. Department of Defense, said Lt. Barbara Taylor.

Pasco joins 17 other counties who use the software, Taylor said.

Here's how it works: A jail official downloads a photo of the person into the system. Photos of people who have been arrested before are already in a criminal justice database.

The computer uses mathematical algorithms, including such factors as the distance between a person's facial features, to determine a match.

The closest photographic matches come up first.

Then jail officials use other information, such as the person's date of birth, Social Security number and fingerprints, to make sure they have the correct match. The system also brings up warrants from other law enforcement agencies.

Before getting this system, jail officials had to wait until an inmate divulged her or his identity. Those who gave aliases often picked up charges of obstruction by a disguised person or giving false information to a law enforcement officer.

Jail officials are learning to use the system, which could also help detectives identify suspects in surveillance videos for bank robberies and other crimes, Taylor said.

"As much as we'll use it," said Taylor, an intake release commander at the jail, "it'll be great for detectives."

The jail plans to use it a fair amount, too.

"Once or twice a month, we have John Does who we don't know who they are," she said. "This will help with that."

Meanwhile, Spate, 43, sits in jail. He and his seven listed aliases are facing 13 charges and two probation violations.

The address listed on his booking report: Refused.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

Pasco County jail gains ability to identify John Does with facial recognition software 07/06/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 6, 2009 10:01pm]
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