Oviedo approves use of facial recognition program for police use

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OVIEDO, Fla. —

More local police officers are getting a new crime fighting tool. Oviedo just agreed to allow police to tap into facial recognition software developed by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

The technology allows law enforcement to run photos through a database to help identify crime suspects.

What Oviedo just approved has been put to use in Winter Springs for almost a year.

The system is somewhat controversial because it allows law enforcement to search through driver's license photos, even if you've never been accused of a crime.

With the facial recognition program officers are able to run photos of potential suspects through a database of driver's licenses and mug shots to help identify possible matches and names.

"This tool gives us an investigative ability that we normally did not have before," said Lt. Doug Seely of the Winter Springs Police Department.

An example would be a burglar caught on surveillance camera. The image of the burglar's face could be run through the database and investigators could match that image to driver's license and mug shot photos that appear to be a match.

To verify matches in the database, they are able to lay two images over each other and looking at the symmetry of eyes, nose and mouth to narrow down potential matches.

"It's not a definitive answer, it's just a lead generator at that point," said Seely.

Sanford police and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office use the system.

Oviedo has approved giving some of its officers access and Longwood police are about to go through the training process.

"I think it's great. If you're out there doing something wrong, then you should be caught doing it," said Seminole County resident Linda Evans.

In all, there are 150 agencies in Florida using the database. It is free for law enforcement agencies. They are just required to go through training.

Channel 9 was told the system has helped solve thousands of crimes, though Winter Springs Police said it hasn't helped them arrest anyone.