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IDOT Facial Recognition Busts Fugitive

Updated: Friday, June 27 2014, 10:52 PM CDT
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- After four decades on the run, investigators captured a wanted fugitive right here in Eastern Iowa.

69-year-old Ronald Carnes escaped from a North Carolina prison in 1973. He was living in Waterloo, until technology caught up with him - technology right out of your favorite Sci-Fi film.

We’re talking about facial recognition software. That technology is being used at Driver's License Offices across the country.

“Since 9-11, we've done a lot of changes as far as identification rules, really trying to keep fraud from happening,” says Lisa Miller, a driver’s license supervisor in Cedar Rapids.

When you step up to get your license and the camera snaps, it's actually mapping out your face. The software looks at the width of your eyebrows, the distance between the corner of your mouth and your eyes, and other features.

It's the reason you can't smile in your license picture.

“It doesn't like glasses, it doesn't like teeth…that just messes up all that facial recognition,” Miller says. “So it's just a particular mapping that it does of your face.”

In the case of Ronald Carnes, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1973, convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon. After his escape, he allegedly lived under the identities of two deceased young boys, who died in the 1940’s

Investigators say he used their names to collect social security benefits. He also allegedly used the identities to obtain a license.

After using one boy’s name to obtain a license, a year later, he came back to apply for a second license and used the name of the second deceased boy. The recognition software found a match to the first facial map from the first license.

After he was arrested, fingerprints verified his true identity.

“I think it's wonderful. I think people get away with far too many crimes as is,” says resident Flora Williams.

At the DOT, people we spoke to say as obtrusive as the tech may seem to some, it’s a sign of the times.

“Our privacy was never private to begin with,” Williams says.

Resident Christina Ross agrees.

“It could be a positive and a negative…. Privacy is almost out the window,” she says. “I think it's necessary for us…you never know you need it until you have to have it.”

Carnes made an initial appearance Thursday in federal court on several charges, including aggravated identity theft and being a felon and fugitive in possession of a firearm.

His next court appearance is set for July 9th.IDOT Facial Recognition Busts Fugitive


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