State motor vehicle officials have been using facial recognition for several years to weed out illegally-operating drivers especially those who obtain multiple licenses under different identities. Now, the states of New York and New Jersey have taken this technology a step further by checking their states' databases of truck drivers with each other.
"We found CDL drivers who were licensed in New York and New Jersey using different names, different social security numbers even taking over the identity of someone who was incarcerated," says Owen McShane, Director of Investigations for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
These states are the first to share license facial recognition data. "We took New Jersey's entire CDL file, ran it against our database, and we identified a total of sixty-two individuals who had two or more licenses under different names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers," says McShane. Officials also found between 450 and 500 CDL drivers with multiple New York licenses obtained under different names who would be ineligible to obtain them under their true name because of DWI charges and convictions for other offenses.
He notes: "We saw a lot of drivers who were getting [different classes of] licenses under two different names. Any time they were stopped using either a commercial vehicle or a passenger vehicle they would present their regular passenger license and they would take the tickets under those identities, so they kept their CDL record pristine."
So far, under the interstate cross-check authorities have arrested three people who obtained CDLs in both states using "false instruments" and "false business records" which are felonies. More arrests are expected.
"One of the individuals we encountered between New York and New Jersey had three DWI convictions and three unresolved suspensions as a result of driving in New Jersey. He came to New York and created a new identity which he was driving under," says McShane. Had this person been a Haz-Mat operator, he would have been found through fingerprints but he was not endorsed for it. McShane adds that they also found some immigrants who had been deported for significant crimes and were back driving by getting a license through a false identity. "Individuals have been trained their whole life to drive, and that’s what they know so they're going to try to get back into that field. We have a lot of really good, safe qualified drivers out there, and it’s kind of scary to see some of these you don’t want driving behind you behind you."
Forty-three states are using facial recognition for two main reasons. First, it prevents an individual from having multiple licenses, and second it also prevents individuals from coming in and taking over someone else’s identity. "If you came into New York today and said 'I’m Owen McShane and I lost my New York license,' when you take a photo, the system would prevent a document from being produced with your photo on my record. It would lock it out because it knows that the photos do not match. "
Since New York officials began using facial recognition technology in 2010 more than 3,500 individuals of all license classes have been arrested for possessing multiple licenses.
McShane says that beyond the labor-intensive job of reviewing the records the program didn't encounter any problems. One thing did surprise him, though. "It was the number of twins and triplets in both jurisdictions and the number of twins that live in both New York and New Jersey. We made sure we didn't have any accidental surprises with that."
And the future for facial recognition? "We anticipate that in the next couple of months we’ll identify how we're going to move forward with it. Ideally, it would be great if a person comes in for a CDL license and while we're doing the checks within our state, we could check our partner states at the same time."