New facial recognition app launched to prevent crime and protect vulnerable people
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Police officers in Gwent and South Wales are to become the first in the UK to develop and use technology to identify wanted individuals in real time through a new facial recognition app on their mobile phones.
It will enable officers to confirm the identity of a wanted suspect almost instantly even if that suspect provides false or misleading details, thereby securing their quick arrest. Cases of mistaken identity will be easily resolved and without the need for a trip to a police station or custody suite.
During the testing phase, which will last for three months, the app – known as Operator Initiated Facial Recognition- will be used initially by 70 officers from Gwent Police and South Wales Police.
Assistant Chief Constable Ian Roberts, of Gwent Police, said:
“Embracing technology and innovation is an important part of policing and how we continue to keep people safe. This new mobile app will be a valuable tool to help officers to identify vulnerable or missing people, saving time and reuniting loved ones quicker.
“This tool can also provide identification of someone who is unconscious or seriously injured and unable to communicate who they are. By using this technology, we are preventing harm, helping those in need and keeping our communities safe.”
This builds on our existing use of retrospective facial recognition (RFR) technology. This is just one way in which these technological advancements are being used in Gwent Police.
RFR technology compares still images of faces of unknown people against a reference image database in order to identify them after an event.
Images are typically supplied from CCTV, mobile phone footage or social media. These images are then compared against our custody images.
The reference database that we use are custody images from Gwent Police and South Wales. These contain in excess of 600,000 images.
After a search is made, the technology reorders the reference image database from the most likely to the least likely possible match.
An operator will typically review the top 200 possible matches to decide whether a match has been made. If the operator determines a match has been made, they will inform the investigating officer. The investigating officer will review the match and add the person to the investigation as a suspect.
ACC Roberts added:
“This technology has already assisted our investigations by identifying suspects, victims and witnesses more efficiently. Facial recognition technology is only used when it is necessary, proportionate and with the aim of keeping the public safe.”
For more on information on how we use facial recognition technology click here.