The police are developing the first national database of mugshots so that they can use face recognition technology to match CCTV images with details of offenders, MPs were told yesterday.
The system is being developed in a pilot scheme involving the Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Merseyside police which has generated a database of more than 750,000 facial images over the past 18 months. Peter Neyroud, the chief executive of the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA), told MPs yesterday that the development of a national facial images database is just one element of a technological revolution in neighbourhood beat policing.
Neyroud, former chief constable of Thames Valley, hopes that by the time of the 2012 London Olympics beat officers will be equipped with advanced “second-generation” hand-held computers which can take and transmit fingerprints, download mugshots and details from the police national computer, and access images from local CCTV cameras.
His hi-tech vision of the future of policing was given during the final evidence session of a year-long inquiry by the Commons home affairs select committee into the “surveillance society”.
The development of an electronic mugshot database is still at an early stage. In the pilot scheme areas the digital photographs are logged of everyone who has been arrested for a criminal offence, with the image linked to the criminal data held on the police national computer. While each force is able to search the electronic mugshots in its own area to match them with CCTV images, the technology does not yet exist to search on the scale needed for a national database.
The police are also developing “behavourial matching” software to pick out odd behaviour in a crowd using CCTV picures. “That might be particularly useful in counter-terrorism or tackling street crime,” he said. “The proliferation of CCTV cameras in the UK – with about one for every 14 people – means that we are now accustomed to our movements being monitored in this way and for most people this is not an issue.” …
I’m sure people would eventually get used to house arrest – it doesn’t make it right.