OGDEN (AP) — With an eye scanner, the Weber County sheriff's office is enrolling hundreds of people into a national iris database.

It is considered the latest wave of technology for identifying missing people. The scanner takes a digital picture of the iris, the colored ring of the eye.

The sheriff's office has used the scanner at county fairs, offering parents the chance to scan their children's irises and also create an emergency identification kit, which holds fingerprints, a photo and a DNA sample.

"It basically is targeting two groups: runaways who want to conceal who they are and people who suffer from mental illness and aren't sure who they are," Capt. Klint Anderson said.

The technology has its limits. It won't help identify dead people, because the iris quickly degenerates after death. The sheriff's office also has had some minor equipment problems, Anderson said.

Weber County purchased the scanner in June 2006, partly with a $15,000 donation.

Unlike a fingerprint database used by police agencies everywhere, the iris database is privately controlled, and its information comes only from people who volunteer to have their eyes scanned.

It is "not very substantial," Anderson said.

"In order for it to be effective, you would want a majority of police agencies to use it to build the database," he said. "We'll continue to use it and work the bugs out."