When it comes to a criminal investigation, biometrics have long been used to identify and track criminals. This includes methods like identifying through fingerprints, DNA, and even voices. Comparatively, face or facial recognition is a new technology that is now being used to identify criminal elements.

Despite the privacy concerns, the installation of high-resolution CCTV or surveillance devices in public areas has contributed to the adoption of this technology for law enforcement. The recent statistics for facial recognition are also encouraging.

  • NIST reports that facial recognition tools have improved 20 times – between 2014 to 2018 – in matching a captured face image in a stored database.
  • Nearly 55% of Americans approve of the use of facial recognition for improving public safety.
  • Facial recognition technology was used to identify and track nearly 3,000 missing children in New Delhi in just 4 days.

In recent years, law enforcement agencies have utilized facial recognition to detect or prevent crimes such as:

  • Identifying crime suspects
  • Monitoring criminal elements who may pose a public security threat.
  • Identifying terrorists as a counter-terrorism measure.
  • Locating missing children or senior citizens.
  • Detecting fraudulent passport holders.

And so on.

How does facial recognition work in criminal investigations? Let us explore further in the following sections.

How Facial Recognition Works in Solving Criminal Cases?

When it is a matter of criminal identification, facial recognition tools work towards providing the image of a suspect or potential criminal to the security experts. For the best results, face recognition tools remove unwanted elements from the image captured through CCTV cameras – such as background noise or other images captured in the same frame.

The facial recognition system works through the following 2-step process:

1. Face detection

This is where the system determines if the captured image is indeed that of a "live" human face – instead of a face mask or a photograph. This step also comprises separating the face image from its background or an unnecessary portion of the captured images.

2. Face recognition

Once the correct face is detected, it goes through the step of facial recognition. During this step, the facial recognition tool classifies the captured face image based on typical characteristics like the distance between the eyes, the shape of the chin, and the length of the jaw or nose. The system then runs a search through its stored criminal database and uses its defined algorithm to find a perfect match – and display the result.

For accurate face recognition, the database must contain multiple images of the same person – along with distinguishable features – that can be useful during the matching process.

What are the advantages of facial recognition in crime detection as compared to other biometrics? Let us check that out next.

Pros and Cons of Facial Recognition in Crime Detection

Facial recognition has its share of pros and cons when it is deployed for crime detection and prevention. Let us start with the following pros:

  • More effective in criminal forensics as compared to other methods like fingerprints. Over the years, experienced criminals have learned to use gloves or wipe off fingerprints at the crime area, so that authorities cannot trace them for identification. On the other hand, face capturing methods are more effective, as criminals need to avoid detection from the network of CCTVs and cameras in public areas.
  • Less intrusive as compared to fingerprinting or verification of the individual’s ID proof.
  • Useful in crime prevention and security, as facial recognition devices can be easily installed in any retail store or public areas like airports, railway stations, and streets.

Here are some of the few cons of facial recognition in crime detection:

  • Threat to the privacy of law-abiding citizens especially in countries where widespread use of this technology is allowed.
  • Despite major improvements, facial recognition is still an “evolving” technology that may not work for all criminal investigations.
  • The threat of criminal databases or records used in facial recognition being breached or compromised by hackers.
Examples of Facial Recognition Technology in Crimes

Notwithstanding its pros and cons, facial recognition has been used successfully in recent criminal cases around the globe:

  • Facial recognition technology has been widely used in Pinellas County, Florida to detect traffic offenders and bank robbers.
  • Identification and arrest of an accused rapist in New York – within 24 hours of the incident.
  • Three cases of fraudulent passport holders while trying to pass through the Washington Dulles international airport.
  • The 2020 case of identification and reunification of over 3,000 missing children by the New Delhi police.
  • Identification of 17,000 child traffickers and rescue of 15,000 children across North America by a non-profit company, Thorn.

As outlined in this article, facial recognition technology can play an active role in detecting and preventing major crimes. Having said that, to prevent any misidentification of criminals, law enforcement agencies must use face recognition tools with near 100% accuracy. High-level security of criminal databases is also a must to prevent any data breaches or leaks.

With advanced features like real-time face recognition and enterprise-grade security, Airface offers a range of facial recognition tools that can be used in protecting individuals and business establishments from criminals. Do visit our website for more information – and leave behind your contact details.

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