Jun 23, 2014
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis scans the iris of Nelson Place School student Liam McGinn. (Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com)
WORCESTER — The Worcester County Sheriff’s Department brought its iris scan program to Worcester’s Nelson Place School with hundreds of students being added to a national registry.
“The iris is ten times more identifiable than a finger print … it is the next wave of identification. It is extraordinarily identifiable. Your iris can never be compromised,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis who explained the scans can be used to identify lost or kidnapped children easily. He added, “The eyes don’t lie.”
The department has been using the iris scanning program for years among the county’s seniors where thousands of adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia have been scanned. The program has been used among children at fairs and community events, but for the first time the sheriff brought the program to a Worcester public school. The program is free to those who sign up and can be used to quickly identify children who are either lost or may have been abducted.
“We try to see in what ways we can improve the safety for the community and this seemed like a no-brainer. We have the technology and have been using it for seniors and why not extend it to children,” said Evangelidis who has joined 1,300 other sheriff’s departments implementing this technology with children. “In the end, it’s another tool for public safety.”
The eyes are ten times more identifiable than a finger print and can be used to help identify missing or abducted children. Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com
The Child Project national registry is maintained by the Missing Children Organization, a non-profit based in Phoenix. Once digital photos of the children’s eyes are made, the data is analyzed and a 688 byte code is created and put into the database. Any law enforcement agency with the proper equipment – which is now prevalent, according to Evangelidis – can easily scan a child’s eyes and get an identification along with contact information for the child’s parents.
The process requires children to have two pictures taken, one of their eyes and one regular digital photo for identification purposes. Parents must sign off on the program, according to the sheriff’s department, and the iris information is erased from the system once the child turns 18.
Catherine Taylor has her eyes scanned at the Nelson Place School by members of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department. Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com
For more information about the program, to sign a child or senior up or inquire about getting the program into a school, people may contact the Sheriff’s Community Outreach Coordinator Shawn McKenna at (508) 723-4582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun 19, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 6:40pm
(NECN: Siobhan Lopez, Worcester, Mass.) – It takes less than a minute to enter a child’s information into a national missing person’s database. All it takes is a photo, some general information like height and weight, and a quick scan of your eyes.
“The eyes don’t lie,” said Lewis Evangelidis, the Worcester City sheriff. “The eyes are the identification.”
It’s a part of Evangelidis’ child ID iris scan program.
The camera captures an up-close look at the iris, which is the colored part of the eye.
The sheriff says the iris is ten times more identifiable than a fingerprint. It’s the one part of the body that will never change.
“Fingerprints wear out, fingerprints can be compromised. Your iris cannot be,” he explained.
Sheriff Evangelidis has been using the program with senior citizens for years. Wednesday was the first time it’s been brought to a public school.
Close to 500 Nelson Place School students lined up to get their picture taken. The students are days away from summer vacation. The sheriff says it’s a perfect time to get their information in the system.
“This iris scan is a national database, so if you travel in the summer and something was to happen, you’d be part of that database in any local law enforcement no matter where you were,” Evangelidis explained.
Evangelidis also uses iris scans at the Worcester County House of Corrections to identify inmates. He calls the technology the next generation of identification, but says it shouldn’t replace traditional child ID kits that use fingerprints.
“You know it’s always good if you’ve got the potential to have a safety kit with fingerprinting. I’d recommend that too,” he said.
Jun 4, 2014
Inmate Matthew McCourt, left, listens as Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis visits a Community Service Program work site at Milford Town Hall Wednesday. Daily News staff Photo/Ken McGagh
By James Sheridan
Daily News Correspondent
Posted May. 29, 2014
MILFORD – A group of uniformed men sat around a table at Town Hall Wednesday morning. The room could hold a few hundred people, but only five sat around the small plastic table set up for lunch.
As they ate, the men joked about their bosses and the series of jobs they recently completed.
However, unlike other groups of co-workers, the men are inmates at the Worcester County House of Corrections and their boss is Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.
On Wednesday, the four-man crew and a corrections officer came to Milford to lay down mulch at Town Hall, the Senior Center and the Police Station and clean the buildings’ facades. They expect to be in town through Friday.
The crew was requested by Town Administrator Richard Villani, whose only charge for their services was buying lunch. According to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the program, utilized nine times since 2011, has saved Milford nearly $31,000 in hourly wages.
This crew, one of four, is part of the inmate Community Service Program at Worcester County’s House of Corrections. The program, according to Evangelidis, is “a win-win,” because it saves towns and community organizations money while providing the inmates an opportunity to work and learn skills that can be used upon their release from prison.
Evangelidis, who accomplanied the crew to town, said he is “very proud of these inmates,” because they have earned the right to participate in work crews and “are turning their lives around.”
Andy Gemme, one of the inmates working in Milford this week, said communities are grateful for the work the inmates complete, as many of their jobs are for churches, community centers and town halls.
Corrections Officer Mike Brennen, of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, accompanied the crew and said every inmate who wishes to enter the program is first interviewed by the classification board before being accepted.
Brennen said only inmates who have committed non-violent crimes are accepted.
Jordan Peterson, another of the workers, added that only inmates with “community-friendly crimes,” are eligible for the program.
Peterson, the crew’s newest member, was only on his second day of work, but said the program is one of the best to help rehabilitate inmates.
For Matt McCourt, another crew member, the program has helped him establish a routine that will help him stay away from drugs after he is released. “For me,” he said, “drugs were part of the equation that landed me here.”
McCourt added that for some in the program, the work represents the first time they have held a job, which leads to a schedule that consists of more than waking up and figuring out where to get their next fix.
Inmates, he said, learn marketable skills and it leads them to think, “Hey! I could do this when I get out … instead of drugs.”
Jun 4, 2014
Sheriff Lew Evangelidis gives his Face2Face drug prevention program to students at Westboro High School Thursday.
(T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR)
By Susan Spencer
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Thursday, May 29, 2014
WESTBORO — It’s the before-and-after pictures that always get them: Fresh-faced young people morph on the screen into ravaged shells of their former selves, with mottled, pocked skin and sunken faces, the effect of just a few years of heavy drug use.
It can be seen in faces of the famous: actors Lindsay Lohan and Macaulay Culkin, for example; in typical county jail inmates; and in a computer simulation of local high school students’ photos.
On Thursday, Westboro High School students were among the 100,000 students in Central Massachusetts over the past three years to see the physical effects and hear a debunking of the myths of opioids, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs as part of Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelides’ Face2Face program to prevent substance abuse.
Mr. Evangelides started the program after learning that roughly 90 percent of the 1,100 inmates at the Worcester County Jail got there because of drug and alcohol addiction.
He said drugs were a major problem at the time he was elected in 2010. But the problem has gotten worse, particularly with what he called the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and its common progression to heroin.
Mr. Evangelides told the students that they were members of “Generation Rx,” reflecting the rapid growth in abuse of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin over the last decade. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2010 nearly as many youths tried prescription painkillers for the first time as tried marijuana.
Instead of the bring-your-own-bottle drinking parties of many middle-aged parents’ youth, high school and middle school students today go to “Skittle parties,” where they bring pills they’ve procured from medicine cabinets, Mr. Evangelides said. The practice is also known as “pharming” or “trail mixing.”
“Young people don’t even think they’re real drugs and they’ll send you to places you wouldn’t dream you’d go,” Mr. Evangelides said, as he showed video footage of the 24/7 monitoring and lack of amenities such as toilet seats that jail inmates live with.
“None of you are thinking that if you pop a Perc or an Oxy or Vicodin, you’d end up addicted,” he continued. “No one is going to offer you that Oxy and tell you, after a while you’re going to need three, six, 10 (pills), and 80 milligrams of Oxy costs $80 … and a bag of heroin is cheaper than a six-pack. You go right from that pill to that needle.”
He also exploded myths about popular club drugs such as “Molly,” a supposedly pure form of Ecstasy. Citing two deaths in one week last year of New Hampshire students who overdosed on the drug, Mr. Evangelides said, “There is no such thing as a safe dose of Molly.”
Even marijuana, which many baby boomer parents consider relatively safe, causes brain, behavioral and physical damage similar to that caused by alcohol and other drugs.
Police Chief Alan Gordon said before the program: “We have a heroin problem. We have opiates. We just did a drug search here last week and had two hits of marijuana. We’ve had overdoses.
“They think marijuana is fine, but it’s definitely a gateway. The high isn’t high enough, so they move to pills. Then the money becomes a problem, they turn to heroin.”
Former Westboro High School tennis coach Nancy Quimby, who helped bring the Face2Face program to the school, said, “Even in Westboro, it’s a problem.”
Erin McCafferty, a junior, said as she walked out of the auditorium afterward: “It was really informative. The prescription pain ones — I’ve had family members overdose and die from it.”
“Seeing the pictures really makes you see how bad it is,” said junior Margaret Baldwin.
Sophomore Hailey Erb said she was struck by the video of an 18-year-old boy who became a paraplegic after he overdosed and his friends didn’t call 911 until several hours later, resulting in permanent brain damage.
Hailey described the drug scene in Westboro: “It’s mostly weed here, but I’m sure there’s lots of other drug abuse. I don’t think they think about it too much. People don’t see the negative impacts it (marijuana) has.”
Principal Brian M. Callaghan said that a community coalition was forming to bring together businesses, medical professionals, schools, town leaders and others to focus on substance abuse and promote healthy living.
Mr. Callaghan said there’s been an uptick in prescription painkiller and marijuana use, while alcohol use among students is relatively low.
But he’s hopeful that with more education, awareness and community involvement, attitudes, including the “amused tolerance” many hold toward marijuana use, will turn around.
“When the parents believe in the message, you see the drug use go down,” he said.