Chicago police start using facial-recognition software to arrest suspects

Police officers in Chicago, Illinois can remotely access video shot from any of the city’s 24,000 closed-circuit television cameras, and they are already using that ability to nab suspects who thought they could outsmart surveillance.

According to a recent Chicago Sun-Time article by Pulitzer
Prize-winning journalist Frank Main, police officers in the Windy
City recently issued their first arrest stemming from the use of
space-age facial-recognition technology coupled with thousands of
cameras that collect live video in real-time at all hours of the
day.

Pierre Martin, 34, was arrested on May 2 and charged with armed
robbery in connection with two incidents from earlier this year.
During one of those events, a video camera owned by the Chicago
Transit Authority (CTA) and wired to the city’s three detective
branches and the Criminal Information Prevention Center at police
headquarters was rolling when Martin allegedly encountered his
victim.

Months later, investigators were able to use the footage recorded
using the CTA cameras and comb through a database of 4.5 million
criminal booking shots in order to identify Martin as a person of
interest. He is the first individual to be picked up by the CPD
using the facial-recognition technology, but only one month after
a city-wide roll-out he is likely to not be the last.

The Transportation Security Administration has given the CTA a
$5.4 million grant to aid with the program, and that money has
been used to update an already impressive arsenal of
city-licensed surveillance cameras to run in tandem with NeoFace,
a high-tech analysis program used by various governments and law
enforcement agencies around the globe to grab biometric data off
of an image and match it to another.

According to an April 2013 press release from NeoFace’s parent
company, NEC Corporation of America, NeoFace exemplifies
facial recognition as an effective and non-intrusive tool for
identification
,” and has been deployed more than 200 times
across 30 countries in only a few short years. Its use in Chicago
is one of the latest, however, and the arrest of one individual
already signals that other cities may follow suit.

This was our first success,” Chicago Police Cmdr.
Jonathan Lewin told the Sun-Times, adding, “as we pick up our
training, you will see ongoing successes
.”

Currently, Chicago cops can only rely on pre-recorded footage,
with the system configured to avoid real-time surveillance.
It’s only post-event,” Lewin told the Sun-Times. But as
similar programs become introduced elsewhere, the capabilities of
systems like NeoFace are likely to put the activity of anyone,
anywhere on the radar of authorities.

RT reported last week that the Metropolitan
Police Department of Washington, DC feeds footage from over 150
speed cameras, 50 red light lenses and more than 120 other
closed-circuit television cams across the city to special
analysis centers where local investigators can try to identify
people caught on film breaking the law after the fact. One
lawmaker likely to pursue an opportunity to run for DC mayor next
year told the Washington Times that he wants officers everywhere
to be able to monitor those cameras in real-time, and intends on
fighting for that ability as Election Day approaches. Civil
liberty advocates in Chicago, DC and elsewhere aren’t impressed,
however, and warn that systems such as NeoFace could let police
profile anyone of their choosing.

Given Chicago’s history of unlawful political
surveillance
,” Harvey Gross man of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Illinois said in 2011, “it is critical that
appropriate controls be put in place to rein in these powerful
and pervasive surveillance cameras now available to law
enforcement throughout the city
.”

The ubiquity and technological reach of Chicago’s
surveillance camera system present a fundamental threat to the
privacy and First Amendment rights of all persons in
Chicago
,” added ACLU of Illinois senior staff counsel Adam
Schwartz in a statement at the time. “The current mayor and
other city officials have said that their goal is to place a
camera on every corner, blanketing the entire city in an
integrated fashion. If that goal is achieved, the lives of
residents of Chicago will be changed. We will be forced to make
decisions about where to go and when with the knowledge that all
of our actions can be watched and recorded
.”

Two years down the road, those cameras are quickly growing in
number and federal aid courtesy of the TSA is only helping speed
up the process of putting an eye in the sky on every street
block.

Lewin, the CPD commander that spokes to the Sun-Times for this
week’s article, said, “There will absolutely no random
surveillance – and facial recognition–of subjects in the public
way
.” Meanwhile, though, federal officers are investigating
new ways to help identify anyone, anywhere using a database that
aims to contain biometric information on every adult in the
country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced plans
to have a database of 14 million photographs on file by next year
when it rolls out its Next Generation Identification system, which will
use surveillance camera clips and other footage to match suspects
almost instantaneously up with a pool of persons derived from
state DMV photo-shoots and other government-owned images. Both
the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have sued the
FBI in hopes of learning more about the NGI program before its
intended roll-out in 2014.

Republished with permission from: RT