A challenge to the security industry and to video surveillance installers was laid down by the Metropolitan Police yesterday after it was revealed that only one arrest made in connection with the London riots was a result of facial recognition technology.
Almost 5,000 people have now been arrested in connection with the Met’s investigation into the August 2011 riots, codenamed Operation Withern.
Of those, around 4,000 were a direct result of evidence from CCTV equipment, marking it an incredible success story for the technology. But at a conference held at New Scotland Yard yesterday, DCI Mick Neville of the Central Forensic Image Team revealed that only one of these identifications was made using automatic facial recognition technology. The remainder were all made by officers who together made up one of the largest investigation teams ever assembled by the force, numbering 633 at its height.
Of the 4,962 arrests made, 3,145 people were charged, with an 81 percent conviction rate for offences carried out between 6-9 August 2011.
Many of the identifications were made by so-called “super-recognizers” — people who are exceptionally talented at recalling faces.
The problem with facial recognition technology, according to DCI Neville, is invariably linked to the position of cameras in high-up places. Evidently, this type of position is crucial in recording the overall scene of a location and in viewing any criminal activity.
But officers suggested that adding a camera that was positioned at eye level — perhaps at the entry point of a location — would enable much clearer images of faces to be recorded, something that would improve the ability of facial recognition technology to be an effective tool.