BRITAIN’S biggest police force is to start using facial recognition cameras in a bid to track down thousands of dangerous criminals.
London’s Met will deploy the tech in public places in the fight against serious crime.
The scheme will also to help to find missing children and other vulnerable people.
Suspects on watchlists will be approached by officers if spotted by the cameras, which will be deployed within a month.
HIGH-TECH CRIME FIGHTING
Trials took place at locations including the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, East London, and in the West End.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: “Every day our officers are briefed about suspects they should look out for. Live facial recognition improves the effectiveness of this tactic.
“Similarly, if it can help locate missing children or vulnerable adults swiftly, we have a duty to deploy the technology to do this.”
Rights group Liberty warned of a “surveillance state” and a “breathtaking assault on our rights.”
But Scotland Yard says the public will be aware of the cameras, with cops handing out leaflets.
The high-tech new crime-fighting tool is aimed at cracking down on knife and gang crime, terrorism and dangerous sex offenders like serial rapist Joseph McCann.
Cops will now regularly film crime hotspots around the capital from a van with two cameras connected to a laptop, which will scan images from a watch list of thousands of wanted suspects collated 24 hours in advance of an LFR operation.
Suspects flagging up on screen will be looked at in person by an officer for confirmation and then stopped for questioning.
Faces of everyone else caught on film remain pixelated and are quickly destroyed.
The Met is the second force to unroll the system after South Wales, and yesterday claimed trials had shown only one in a thousand wrong identifications.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, said: “LFR is a fantastic crime fighting tool.
"It is bringing technology to bear on a police approach that has been going on since policing began…”
However, Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, pledged a legal challenge to the scheme, saying the Met had drastically minimised the number of inaccurate camera spots.
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The group’s Advocacy director, Clare Collier, said: “This is a dangerous, oppressive and completely unjustified move by the Met.
"Facial recognition technology gives the State unprecedented power to track and monitor any one of us, destroying our privacy and our free expression.”
But retired Met DCI and forensic images expert Mick Neville said: “Police are right to use every weapon in their armoury to tackle the gang culture and target prolific criminals.”