DPS uses tattoo recognition technology to identify victims in Arizona

DPS says their Forensic Images Unit is an award-winning unit that has received international...
DPS says their Forensic Images Unit is an award-winning unit that has received international recognition.(Arizona Department of Public Safety)
Published: Aug. 13, 2022 at 9:17 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Arizona Department of Public Safety is putting the highlight on how modern tech is helping troopers and detectives identify victims. Recently, DPS said it used tattoo recognition technology for the first time in June to identify a homicide victim and a dead woman who had begun to decompose.

In a news release, troopers explained how DPS’ Forensic Images Unit upgraded the Arizona Biometric Information System in June to include facial recognition technology improvements and the ability to analyze tattoos forensically. The system contains about 1.4 million images obtained during criminal booking, and it wasn’t long before police began using that brand-new technology.

On June 23, DPS got a request from the Phoenix Police Department to help identify a person shot in the head, which prevented facial recognition technology from being successful. Fingerprints also didn’t return any results. However, a DPS detective could forensically examine three distinct tattoos, allowing authorities to make a solid investigative lead and later identify the victim.

Late last month, detectives got another request from the Gila River Police Department, who tried to identify a woman who had begun to decompose. While the coroner could not gather fingerprints, authorities could examine several tattoos and, after further investigation, provide the victim’s identity, which made it possible to notify next-of-kin and their family members.

According to DPS, this new technology was built on the “continuous, extensive research on [facial recognition] software and technology.” In addition, agency officials say that they work to use the software ethically as allowed in state and federal law.