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Facial recognition tech to help police nail rioters

UK policemen feeding photographs of suspects through face-matching program.

world Updated: Aug 13, 2011 00:58 IST

Facial recognition technology being considered for London’s 2012 Games is getting a workout in the wake of Britain’s riots, a senior police chief told The Associated Press, with officers feeding photographs of suspects through Scotland Yard’s newly updated face-matching program.

Chief constable Andy Trotter of the British Transport Police said the sophisticated software was being used to help find those suspected of being involved in the worst unrest London has seen in a generation.

But he cautioned that facial recognition makes up only a fraction of the police force’s efforts, saying tips have mostly come from traditional sources, such as still images captured from closed circuit cameras, pictures gathered by officers, footage shot by police helicopters or images snapped by members of the public. One department was driving around a large video screen displaying images of suspects.

“The public are so enraged that people who wouldn’t normally come forward are helping us — especially when they see their neighbours are coming back with brand new TVs,” Trotter said.

A press officer with Scotland Yard confirmed that facial recognition technology was at the police’s disposal, although he gave few other details. He said that generally the technology would only be used to help identify those suspected of serious crimes, such as assault, and that in most cases disseminating photographs to the general public remains a far cheaper and more effective way of finding suspects.

First Published: Aug 13, 2011 00:57 IST