The Scientific Research and Development Branch of the UK Home Office has joined forces with Barnet-based Io Research Ltd to produce a computerised package for the identification of criminals. The key to the system, known simply as E-Fit, is a database of facial features, which has been compiled over a period of years by the […]
The Scientific Research and Development Branch of the UK Home Office has joined forces with Barnet-based Io Research Ltd to produce a computerised package for the identification of criminals. The key to the system, known simply as E-Fit, is a database of facial features, which has been compiled over a period of years by the Home Office. The software comes as part of a UKP12,000 Io Research kit, com-prising an MS-DOS micro, a proprietary graphics card, and a monochrome monitor. A Home Office spokesman claimed that the product has displayed significant speed and accuracy gains over the prevailing Photofit system, which is time consuming and sometimes results in the witness developing feature-blindness. The E-Fit system is also specifically designed to unlock the memory of the witness in two different ways. According to a Home Office-sponsored psychological research team based at Aberdeen University, the human brain tends to recall individual facial characteristics in monochrome images. To this end, an E-Fit user is initially asked to describe a number of facial features, which are keyed by a police officer in under different on-screen menu headings. Once this has been achieved, the system produces a facial image on the monitor. The team also found that, long-term, greater overall accuracy was achieved by presenting witnesses with a realistic face to work on. The system enables users to do just this, by allowing them to advise on adjustments to the initial image, and subsequently watch the changes take shape on the screen. Once the reconstruction is complete, the image can be turned into a Polaroid or 35mm exposure for circulation. Currently, the database is made up from the features of young, white men – a group estimated to account for some 80% of the crime in this country: Io plans to add Afro-Caribbean and women’s features by the beginning of next year. The company also has a number of add-on packages which can enhance the system’s reconstruction capabilities, including a colour monitor, and a video-based package which can fill in any physical details – cars, buildings and bystanders – which may have been spotted at the scene of a crime. Io claims that, along with a number of sucessful pilot schemes run in conjunction with UK police forces, the system has generated considerable interest within the CIA, the FBI and the New York Police Department: it has yet, however, to sign a major contract.