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Leicestershire Police is the first force in the UK to test new face recognition software

16 July, 2014

NeoFace compares any digital image - such as CCTV or police body camera footage - with any photo held on the Leicestershire Police database.

The computer programme has been under evaluation since April and around two hundred suspects have already been put through the system, with a high success rate of identification.

It works by comparing dozens of measurements between key facial features. The technology provides initial results in a matter of a few seconds. The current system, although computerised, involves manually searching for possible matches, which can take up to several hours.

Chief Inspector Chris Cockerill said: “We’re very proud to be the first UK Police force to evaluate this new system. Initial results have been very promising and we’re looking forward to seeing what can be achieved throughout the six month trial.”

While the results can’t be used as evidence in court, the programme does give detectives significant help in developing new lines of enquiry.

Identity unit Manager Andy Ramsay said: “We have over ninety-thousand photos on our system and Neo-Face can compare someone’s image against our complete databases in seconds. Besides the speed it’s also impressive because it can even find family members related to the person we’re trying to identify.”

US usage

In the US, Chicago police recently convicted its first criminal who was initially identified using NEC’s face recognition software. Chicago Transit Authority surveillance cameras had recorded Pierre Martin using a gun to threaten subway passengers and steal their mobile phones. Using the NEC NeoFace technology, law enforcement compared the image of Martin’s face to the police department’s database of nearly 5 million criminal photos. Martin, who was in the database due to an arrest record dating back at least eight years, was identified by the recognition system as the most likely match to the face captured in the surveillance footage. He was also later identified by witnesses in a photo line-up. Pierre Martin was found guilty and sentenced to 22 years in prison for two armed robberies carried out last year on subway trains.

Leicestershire Police ID Unit Officer Hilary Gazzard and ID Unit Manager Andy Ramsay demonstrating the NeoFace computer system.

US government benchmark tests

NEC’s face recognition technology has recently achieved the highest performance rating in a multi-vendor face recognition test carried out by the US government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The NIST tests are supported by leading organisations including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Department of Justice and the FBI, and considered a highly reliable assessment of facial recognition software on a global basis.

Twelve commercial vendors and four academic institutions participated in the evaluation, which consisted of several test scenarios designed to determine accuracy based on measured error rates. NEC’s technology took first place for the third consecutive time following tests previously carried out by NIST in 2009 and 2010.

NIST evaluated the accuracy of database enrolments and personal identity searches using a database featuring over 1.6 million images, including multiple “high quality” criminal mugshots, “low quality” webcam snapshots and “standard quality” passport/visa photos.

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