In Toronto and much of Canada, the introduction of CCTV by police to monitor public space is still in its infancy, passionately supported in some quarters, denounced by others, with the rest either indifferent or (myself included) not yet in possession of a fully formed opinion. In the UK, however, CCTV is a ubiquitous part of life and London’s Metropolitian Police are looking into taking its use to an even higher level by using video software — designed by a firm called “OmniPerception” — that can pick out suspects based on what they are wearing. The technology can “see” specific brands in a crowd and is currently used to identify company logos in TV broadcasts of sporting events to check the prominence of brand images. From the BBC:
Police believe that tracking suspects by their distinctive clothes will help cut down on the manual scanning of hundreds of hours of video footage.
The concept is being considered by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville of Operation Javelin, who project manages the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office roll-out programme: a pioneering effort to turn the analysis of CCTV into a forensic discipline like fingerprint or DNA analysis.
The software would allow officers to quickly analyse hours of CCTV footage, in which the suspect may have appeared, for images containing the distinctive clothing, in the hope of finding pictures that would enable police to make an identification.
“The one thing most of these young criminals are clever enough to realise is that they should not go smiling at the camera,” said Mr. [David] McIntosh [OmniPerception’s CEO].
“What they do is they tend to go out in a kind of uniform, if you see a kid in a brand of “hoodie” you can be pretty sure he’ll be wearing that same brand of “hoodie” the next time he commits an offence.”
Though the use of this technology would seem to invite similar controversy as traditional police profiling does, there does appear to be potential for the policing of fashion crimes (oversized Dolce & Gabanna belt buckles and too-busy Gucci sweaters beware).
Photo of CCTV cameras at Victoria Station by Antonio Martinez.