Facial recognition technology aids Albuquerque PD

Posted on Oct 23, 2015
Law enforcement officers and departments are continually on the lookout for new software, hardware and other tools that can make crime control efforts more effective and better protect the local community. One new technological improvement made by the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Department is already bearing fruit. A tech-focused special unit of the APD recently added facial recognition software to its kit of advanced crime-solving tools. The system allows staff working in the city's Real Time Crime Center to check surveillance recordings and other footage against internal records to identify suspects.

"The software checks surveillance recordings against internal mugshot records to identify suspects."

How does it work?
The facial recognition system cross-references footage gathered from crime scenes and other incidents with the department's database of approximately 250,000 mugshots, according to local ABC affiliate KOAT. The department had looked into purchasing and using some form of recognition technology during the past few years, but only recently found a system it was comfortable implementing. Tests and preliminary experiments took approximately two years. The system takes video gathered by officers and automates the comparison functions before presenting a final list of potential matches, local CBS affiliate KRQE reported. An analyst with experience in the software then assesses the potential identifications and provides that data to a detective in the APD.

Effectiveness early on
The facial recognition technology has worked well in limited duty thus far.

"We've tested about 15 times [and] we've had about three or four good matches," said T.J. Wilham, manager of the Real Time Crime Center, to KRQE. "We're excited when we get hits. We're certainly disappointed when we have a great picture and we don't, but right now we're just learning."

The technology helped officers identify a man who recently attempted to return stolen perfume to a Sears in Albuquerque. By comparing the footage to the department's database, the officers involved in the case found a likely match with an area resident previously arrested on theft and drug charges.

Limitations and pushback
The facial recognition system offers plenty of promise in terms of an additional element for crime-fighting efforts, but there is some significant pushback coming from the community. Both KRQE and KOAT spoke to American Civil Liberties Union representatives who expressed concern about the system expanding its database of faces - such as using New Mexico's stores of driver's license photos instead of only APD mugshots - and increased general use. Wilham said the department never relies on the determinations of the software exclusively and instead treats results as a tip or lead that merits further investigation, according to KOAT. The ACLU didn't come out against the software as a concept, but said the APD needs to publish explicit guidelines that explain how the system is used and detail all restrictions involved in the process.

Effective technology is increasingly important to support law enforcement officers and effectively combat crime. NC4 Street Smart offers a collaborative information-sharing platform that supplements and enhances officer knowledge, offering access to collective organizational wisdom and keeping officers current on developing situations in their jurisdiction.

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