It looks like a Viewmaster, and law enforcement officials hope it will help track down missing children, says The State in Columbia, S.C. The Richland County, S.C., Sheriff's Department is the first in the Southeast – and one of three sheriff's offices nationwide – to join the CHILD Project, a database that relies on irises instead of fingerprints to locate missing children. Children stand a foot away from a camera that takes a digital picture of the child's iris, the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil. That image is stored in a nationwide database, so if a missing child shows up in another county that has access to the database, officials can identify the child. In the first six months after birth, the iris leave marks that make each iris unique.
Parents get a free small card that includes a picture of the child and the iris scan. Parents can choose whether they want to release their child's information into the national database or keep it for their own use. Richland County's equipment was donated from the Children's Identification and Location Database Project, which is maintained by the Nation's Missing Children Organization, a nonprofit agency. It takes about 15 seconds for a child's iris to be photographed, and about nine seconds to search the database for a match. Fingerprint matching can take weeks.