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DMV using facial recognition to keep roads safe

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As travel ramps up for the summer season, New York State DMV is showing CBS6 News a tool it uses to keep dangerous drivers off the road. DMV says that the facial recognition technology is also catching identity theft and benefits fraud.

Inside a State building in Albany, a DMV investigation team is scanning through hundreds of ID photos a day, looking for people who are trying to get an ID under another name.

New York State DMV Director of Investigations Owen McShane says that many of those people are trying to get a license under another identity because their driving record was suspended or revoked and they want to stay on the road.

"When we look at this group, they have a much higher chance of being involved with DWI's, involved in crashes, multiple moving violations, everything. Not someone you want driving behind you on the road," said McShane.

To prevent that, every new photo taken by a DMV office, is run through the State DMV system.

"That picture is converted into an algorithm and that algorithm is run against every other photo that we have on file at the DMV," said Supervising Investigator Bob Riley.

If the system flags a name or photo, it is sent to the investigation team in Albany where each photo is reviewed.

“Our biggest goal is one driver, one record,” said McShane.

McShane showed CBS6 News some of the cases the team had worked on. Cases, that he said, have caught not only suspended drivers but also identity theft and, with the help of other agencies, benefits fraud.

"What they’ve been able to do is identify benefit fraud where people are working under one identity and collecting benefits under another identity. Overall, with that, we are approaching 30 million dollars in benefit fraud that has been uncovered as a result of facial recognition," said McShane.

McShane said the program was rolled out statewide in 2010. The technology was upgraded last year to include 128 points of measurement. He said that is really helping. Since January 2016 when that upgrade happened, DMV has identified close to 7,000 people who had two or more licenses. In the years before that, combined, investigators find about 13,500.

McShane said that more than 3700 arrests have been made since 2010. Thousands of other cases have been resolved without charges.

He said that New York DMV is working with other states now to make sure CDL drivers don't have multiple licenses under multiple identities in different states.

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