The Chula Vista Police Department is now using new facial recognition technology to fight crime. But, not everyone is on board with the high-tech tool. NBC 7's Todd Strain reports.
The Chula Vista Police Department and other San Diego law enforcement agencies are going high-tech, using a real-time digital software program to catch criminals.
While driver licenses and other forms of identification have been around for years, they aren’t always the best way to ID an individual. Agencies like Homeland Security use biometric technology to identify people, and now local police departments are following suit.
The Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) is now using special facial recognition technology accessed via computer tablet.
“This particular tablet has software downloaded on it to allow a police officer to do a facial recognition assessment,” explained CVDP Roman Granados.
Here’s how it works: the officer uses the table to take a photograph of a person. That image is then run through a criminal database, with instant results.
“The feedback is within seconds,” said Granados.
The software brings up images that match the picture, and important personal information such as name, address, criminal history and more.
“If the person has a warrant or is wanted by police, it has a little red flag on it, which allows me to do extra steps to confirm that warrant,” added Granados.
The technology is crucial in the fight against career criminals who give the police false identification and information. While it may be easy to change one’s name, it’s much harder to change one’s appearance.
“The hairstyles may be a little different, but the face never changes,” said the CVPD officer.
But, while law enforcement touts the technology, some people think it encroaches on a person’s privacy.
“Seems to me like this is just another erosion of privacy rights,” said San Diego attorney and civil liberty advocate Victor Torres. “I think there’s a price to be paid not just in the cost of the technology, but the price of the quality and feel of our society.”
Meanwhile, police said they only take a photograph using the tool if needed. It’s not used for routine traffic stops, and if you’re not in the criminal database, you have no need to worry.
“We’re going by just prior bookings or arrest history. These are people that are already incarcerated, have been on probation, maybe on parole, or had a police contact in some way or another.”
For now, the technology hasn’t been challenged in court, and police continue to use it on the job. Chula Vista police believe the biggest benefit of the facial recognition software and tablet is speed.
The program speeds up the identification process and allows officers to spend more time on the streets protecting and serving.