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British riots: Police use facial-recognition technology

August 12, 2011 | 10:53 am


Britain's police are using facial-recognition technology to help them track down those who have taken part in the riots that struck London this week.

The facial-recognition technology, which belongs to London's Metropolitan Police agency, Scotland Yard, was first going to be used at the Summer Olympic Games of 2012, which are set to take place in London, according to the Associated Press.

But the civil unrest that began as a protest in the neighborhood of Tottenham in response to police fatally shooting 29-year-old Mark Duggan last week, and quickly and violently spread to other parts of the city, was enough for law enforcement to put the technology into practice ahead of schedule, Chief Constable Andy Trotter of the British Transport Police told the AP.

Officers have been sending photographs of suspects to Scotland Yard to be run through the agency's face-matching software, but Trotter said the technology wasn't a major part of how police would identify those who took part in the riots, the AP report said.

"There's a mass of evidence out there," Trotter said in the report. "The public are so enraged that people who wouldn't normally come forward are helping us -- especially when they see their neighbors are coming back with brand new TVs."

A Scotland Yard officer, who also spoke anonymously in the AP report, said that the facial-recognition 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."

By the middle of the day on Friday, nearly 1,700 people were arrested in connection with the unrest, many of whom were taken into custody on suspicion of burglary, theft and arson, while some faced murder charges.

Trotter told the AP that 16,000 police would remain on active duty on London streets over the weekend in an effort to end the riots.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Police officers lead away a riot suspect after a raid on a property in Pimlico, London. Credit: Reuters