A handheld device that can tell in a second whether a person is on one of 140 wanted or watch lists is being hailed by police and criticized by civil libertarians, reports USA Today. The Clermont County, Oh., sheriff’s office is the first civilian law enforcement agency to test the portable fugitive finder. Police say Mobilisa Inc.’s m2500 Defense ID system shows promise of saving them time and helping them fight crime. The Port Townsend, Wa., wireless technology company says its handheld electronic scanner can say immediately whether someone is a fugitive from justice, has a violent criminal past, or is a convicted sex offender.
The scanner reads the magnetic strip or barcode on state-issued ID cards, passports, and driver’s licenses. It uses the information to determine whether a person shows up on wanted or watch lists, including ones from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute says the scanner raises concerns about privacy. Clermont County Sheriff A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg says, “This is the future of crime fighting.” John Paxton, chairman of Mobilisa’s board, lives in Clermont County and arranged for the department to begin testing the scanners late last year at no cost. The scanners cost $6,700, plus a $148 monthly service fee.