Law enforcement personnel across Maine now have a new tool to help find missing children and seniors who have wandered due to Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Penobscot County, Maine, Sheriff Glenn Ross announced the completion of the statewide implementation of the system at a recent press conference. "I am pleased to announce that through the exceptional generosity of an anonymous donor my office is able to distribute the Child Project for use by 41 sheriffs' offices and police departments across the state of Maine," he said.

The Child Project is composed of a secure nationwide network and registry that enables law enforcement and social service agencies to locate and positively identify missing children and adults using iris recognition technology.

Iris recognition, which is non-intrusive, positively determines the identity of an individual by capturing a high-resolution digital photograph of his or her iris. The technology is so sensitive it can tell the difference between twins or even an individual's right and left eye. All the enrollee has to do is look into the camera and have his or her picture taken.

The Penobscot County Sheriff's Department was the first law enforcement agency in Maine to implement the Child Project system in July of 2006. Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the system is now being made available to law enforcement and social workers throughout the state without any cost to taxpayers.

The equipment for connecting to the Child Project costs $9,995 and includes all of the hardware and software needed to begin enrolling individuals in the database as well as training and support for the system. The system includes the Child Project software, an iris recognition enrollment camera, a digital photo camera, a laptop computer, training and support. An ID card printer is also available for an additional cost. The system is very portable. The only requirement for remote use is electricity.

There are no required annual costs for support or maintenance, according to the Child Project's Web site. However, the individual system components come with limited manufacturer warranties (ranging from 90 days to 1 year). Extended service and support plans are available.

Child Project systems have been implemented in 24 states with implementations currently planned in California, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia. Over 1,400 sheriffs have signed up to participate in the Child Project as funding becomes available.