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UK police chase crooks on CCTV

The Associated Press via The Wash. Post, Oct 17, 1998

Chasing Crooks on Closed Circuit TV
.ht ml

LONDON (AP) -- An ``intelligent'' computer system that uses closed
circuit television to match faces in a crowd to mug shots of known
criminals is likely to become London's latest weapon against crime.

Scotland Yard and a local council have installed the $100,000 CCTV
system on a trial basis in Newham, a poor district in London's East End.

Newspapers reported Thursday that the computer system, called Mandrake,
is linked to 144 CCTVs in Newham's shopping centers, railway stations
and car parks and can scan up to 150 faces at a time and compare them
with a database of criminals stored on a computer at the council's

If there is a match between a face in the crowd and a known criminal,
the computer alerts a monitoring team in the town hall, who in turn
alert the police.

Civil liberties groups said they were alarmed by the new system, but
police defended its use.

``The only people entered on to the system will be convicted criminals
who, through our intelligence, we believe are habitually committing
crimes in the area,'' The Daily Mail quoted police Chief Superintendent
Dave Armond as saying. ``If people are not committing crime they have
nothing to fear, but if they are among the small minority who are, the
message is, 'We are watching out for you.'''

The newspaper reported that police initially will use the system to
concentrate on catching robbery suspects. In the future, however, it
could be used to search crowds for hooligans who stir up trouble at
soccer matches.

CCTV's developer, Software and Systems International, says the system is
accurate enough to discern people hiding behind make-up or eye glasses.
And growing a beard won't help either, the company says.

Britain has 150,000 close circuit television cameras. While most Britons
appear happy the devices are being used to tackle crime, civil liberties
groups oppose both the cameras and the facial matching.

``The accuracy of facial mapping like this is limited. You only need a
handful of photographs of celebrities to see how different the same
people can look in different pictures,'' the Mail quoted Liz Parratt,
spokeswoman for Liberty, a civil rights group, as saying. ``Even if you
did have a system which worked, it would have to be regulated very
carefully to protect people's privacy.''

 \ Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Tim Griffiths                   [email protected]
Center for Submicron Research   http://tim01.ex.ac.uk
Weizmann Institute of Science   (972)-8-934-2736
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