The Metropolitan Police in London has revealed plans to deploy advanced facial recognition technology to identify and apprehend prolific shoplifters.
Retail crime has resulted in an estimated £1.9 billion in losses in London annually. In addition to the financial harm, there are over 1,000 reported cases of abuse and violence against retail staff each year.
Given that one in ten Londoners works in the retail sector, this type of crime affects a significant portion of the city’s population.
Over the past few months, the Metropolitan Police has collaborated closely with the retail industry to understand its challenges better.
Recently, Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley convened a meeting with retail leaders to discuss ways to enhance the safety of frontline staff and reduce prolific offending. During this meeting, he shared details of a new joint protocol that involves the police collaborating with retailers to concentrate their efforts on targeting those causing the most harm.
At the end of September, the Met contacted 12 major London retailers, requesting CCTV images of their top 30 prolific but unidentified offenders.
A specialized team is now using facial recognition technology to analyze facial features in the CCTV stills and match them against images in the police custody image database. The matches are typically revealed within approximately 60 seconds.
Within a few days, 149 suspects were identified from 302 CCTV stills. Some of these individuals are wanted for multiple offences. Local law enforcement officers will now work with the stores to build cases and track the suspects.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley stated, “We’re working with shops across the capital to target and track down criminals in a way we never have before.”
He added, “We’re pushing the boundaries and using innovation and technology to identify criminals rapidly.”
The Commissioner emphasized that the results seen so far are game-changing and that using facial recognition technology in this manner could revolutionize crime investigation and resolution.
He also highlighted that most of these prolific offenders are career criminals involved in serious crime. This initiative not only enhances the protection of shops and supports the business community but also identifies and tracks down serious criminals, benefiting all of London’s communities.
This move demonstrates the Metropolitan Police’s commitment to taking a precise and technology-led approach to addressing crimes that impact communities. It follows a similar strategy deployed earlier this year in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) offenders.
The top 100 offenders in the VAWG category were identified as responsible for a disproportionate number of VAWG offences in London. They were found to have connections to other offences, including weapons possession and street violence.
This approach allows the police to focus resources on those causing the most harm to Londoners, and the same principles are now being considered for other crime types as well.
The facial recognition initiative is one component of a broader strategy to support businesses across the capital. Law enforcement has simplified the process for businesses to submit evidence of offending, including CCTV footage, images, and statements, to facilitate quicker and more effective action.
Additionally, new targeted operations are being conducted to disrupt the sale of stolen goods, and the police will engage with local businesses in London to identify further measures to support them in the coming months.
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