Facial Recognition yielding positive results for South Wales police six months on

Back in June this year South Wales Police successfully deployed Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) ‘Locate’ for the UEFA Champions League week in Cardiff. We were the first force in the UK to have a positive match using AFR, leading to the arrest of a 34 year old man wanted on a recall to prison. AFR Locate is a real time solution which utilises live feeds from CCTV typed cameras based either at specific, fixed locations or cameras secured to the top of one of our vehicle fleet to locate persons on prescribed watch lists.

On the 7th August South Wales Police went live with Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) ‘Identify’ which uses a static face search capability. AFR Identity allows officers to load images of persons of interest and compare them against our 500,000 custody images to see if there is a possible match on identification.

Between 28th July and 12th December this year there have been positive matches against 191 occurrences using AFR Identify. 50 charges and 12 arrests have been brought so far with 8 prison sentences been handed down. The charges include theft, sexual offences, burglary, robbery and drug offences.

Alongside criminal investigations, the technology has helped officers with a non-suspicious sudden death, where the identity of the deceased was unknown. The identification was aided by the facial recognition system which enabled our officers to quickly identify a possible match. The AFR technology shows that it can assist officers not only in criminal enquiries but ones such as this when a person is either unconscious or deceased with no formal identification apparent. It can also help with identifying missing persons or those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other similar health issues, which allow officers to safeguard the vulnerable, quicker.

Superintendent Alun Morgan, Head of Fusion at South Wales Police, said: “The past six months have been a resounding success it terms of validating the technology, building confidence amongst our officers and the public whilst offering a potential area for growth for us with the technology in the future.

“The overall effectiveness of facial recognition has been high, evidenced in part by the positive match figures of AFR Identify and the number of charges being brought against offenders. Our confidence in AFR as a valuable addition to our operational toolkit means that we will be extending the trial until March 2018 when an evaluation will be done in order to develop our findings further.

Supt Morgan added: “Throughout the trial South Wales Police has been very cognisant of concerns about privacy and we have built in checks and balances into our methodology to make sure our approach is justified and balanced. We have had detailed discussions with all interested regulatory partners, including the local Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Home Office Biometrics Programme, as well as the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, to ensure that we are considering the wider needs in relation to the Data Protection Act and to ensure that the deployment of this technology is proportionate whilst recognising the need to balance security and privacy.”

The South Wales Police Facial Recognition Team can be contacted at AFR@south-wales.pnn.police.uk.

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Nathan Spackman

Nathan is the Operations Manager at Bro Radio. You'll occasionally find him with our street team and hosting at local events as well as presenting our facebook live videos.