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NYC Using Eye Scanners to Track Suspects

The irises will be photographed by a binocular-like device and stored in a police database

In an effort to firmly establish the identities of suspects taken into custody, the New York City Police Department is photographing the eyes of suspects they have detained.

In addition to photographs and finger printing, suspects taken into custody in New York City will have their eyes—or specifically, their irises—photographed by a binocular-like device and stored in a police database, says Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

The photographing of eyes is to ensure the correct suspect appears before a judge, said Kelly, who added that New York’s criminal justice system is so large, that it is possible for a suspect to claim to be someone else. To reduce the likelihood of that occurring, when a suspect appears in court officials will match the eye scan to see whether the image corresponds with records in the system, he said.

“We want to make sure it’s the right person when they get in front of the judge, so this is a common sense way to do that,” Kelly said. The need to photograph suspects’ eyes gained support following two incidents in which prisoners escaped using false identities.

The police department is deploying 21 machines throughout the city at a cost of about $500,000, which was paid by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.