British police to develop national video ID system

Facial recognition to automatically identify images of wanted criminals, according to police business plan.

British police are looking at developing a system that would use facial-recognition technology to automatically identify individuals caught on video cameras.

The plans are those of the Police Information Technology Organisation, or PITO, before it becomes part of the United Kingdom's newly created National Policing Improvement Agency next year.

The video recognition system will link into a national police database, called Find, for storing and transmitting facial images of criminals and their history. The service will also make the images and information available in mobile format to police officers on the beat, along with a mobile fingerprint-checking capability.

"PITO expects to prepare an outline business case for national video identification systems, define standards and link video images with facial images stored within Find, during the coming year," the report said.

PITO will also develop the Ident1 biometric technology platform, which replaced the national automated fingerprint database, to capture and store multiple fingerprint sets in order to increase the percentage of identified prints from scenes of crime.

Another key priority in the business plan is the rollout of a permanent Airwave secure digital radio communications network for the emergency services across the entire London Underground by 2008.

Airwave can already be deployed on London Underground during a major incident, but a contract for the provision of a permanent underground infrastructure for the entire Tube network is expected to be signed this summer.

PITO has set a target of deploying Airwave on a quarter of London Underground stations by March 2007 and then across the rest of the system and the Channel Tunnel by 2008.

Over the next 12 months, other enhancements to the 2.9 billion pound ($5.3 billion) Airwave network, which is available to all police forces in England, Scotland and Wales, will also be made.

"In the immediate future," the report said, "the network will be made more secure to an increased level of threat through the provision of improved network resilience and fallback arrangements. This will lead to an increase in the availability of the network and reduce the probabilities of failure."

Andy McCue of reported from London.

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