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Grampian Police are to use a biometric facial recognition systems to help identify and process suspects more rapidly.

The system is supplied by Steria and integrates Imagis' ID-2000 face recognition technology to confirm the identities of suspects by cross-checking against photographic records.

ID-2000 is designed to identify an individual using 692 facial descriptors to capture and identify a face. The system, which works with all races and genders, can identify suspects from images such as video, CCTV, photographs, artists' composite drawing and police e-fits.

Changes in hairstyles, or the growth/shaving of beards can be accommodated using the system.

ID-2000 uses a combination of "spectral analysis and 3-D modelling" to locate and fit a face.

Head of Information Technology at Grampian Police, Chief Inspector Carl Ashcroft explained that the system enables rapid identification of people taken into custody.

"We're adding it to our existing fingerprint identification system. Essentially, its a belt and braces approach," Chief Inspector Ashcroft told us.

Grampian Pilot is currently piloting the facial recognition technology, and integrated it with its existing systems. It hopes to go live with the technology in custody suites within the next six weeks.

In the future, Grampian hopes to link the system to process CCTV footage. During major police inquiries many police hours can be spent going through CCTV tapes and its hoped the system with save a great deal of time. With the introduction of digital CCTV, facial recognition will become more reliable.

Facial recognition in crowd settings, used in conjunction with analogue systems, is far from perfect.

Chief Inspector Ashcroft conceded this point but said that the Imagis system was around 70 per cent reliable in crowd situations, far better than the 50 per cent or less reliability attached to earlier systems.

Using facial recognition technology in a controlled settings, for verification, is more reliable, he says: "We're very comfortable using the technology in controlled settings.".

Imagis' facial recognition software will be integrated into Steria's CellFile "nominal search" mechanism to search Grampian's existing database of images. A nominal file is a text and photograph record of an individual. By integrating with Imagis' software, the system will be able to identify a face by searching 15 million records within one minute, according to Steria.

The system is much quicker than manual alternatives.

Grampian Police hang out in Aberdeen and the surrounding countryside - home to 520,000 people. The new system should save police time, as it's much quicker than manual options, police say.

Grampian Police joins the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), West Midlands Police and Customs and Excise, in buying a Steria 'imaging' system.

The Eurodac Fingerprint Identification System, which Steria implemented for the EU, supplies 16 European countries with access to an asylum seekers' fingerprint database. ®

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