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INK project makes its mark as 'crime-fighting first'


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Encouraging results from initial few months of force scheme to develop its own fingerprint scanner.

The INK scanner

The INK scanner

Date - 29th December 2018
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle


More than 6,000 officers are set to have access to a policing first within weeks as Britain’s biggest force has given the thumbs up to initial trial findings of new technology that identifies suspects inside a minute.

Four months after the Met Police became the inaugural force to develop its own mobile fingerprint scanner, officers claim the device is already saving time as well as public money.

INK Biometrics, short for Identity Not Known, is reportedly meeting expectations and identifying prime suspects wanted for serious crimes.

Used more than 8,500 times already, INK has led to more than 3,000 identifications on London’s streets – saving trips back to police stations to identify people.

Officers are able to confirm the identities of suspects at the roadside within 60 seconds if they have a criminal record, are wanted or are known to immigration enforcement.

Fingerprints are only taken where there is legal cause under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

But since officers have had access to INK, the easy-to-use kit allows faster apprehension of wanted offenders – keeping officers out on the streets for longer and freeing up limited custody space. The average time spent in custody is 14 hours, with each hour costing approximately £30.

Met officers and staff developed their own product and software when they realised it could significantly increase the number of devices at a much reduced cost.

Some 400 officers are using the devices on a day-to-day basis. That number will rise to more than 6,000 by February 2019.

The Met’s mobile biometrics service manager, Sergeant Paul Knight, said: “With permission, officers can use INK to search the PNC, preventing the need to use the radio to check on an individual’s status and whether they are wanted or not.

“The general consensus from officers is that the INK devices are easy to use, giving officers a quick responses on a subject’s identity.

“There have been many cases over the past months where INK has provided crucial support in identifying a suspect which has led to arrest and charges.”

INK project leader, Superintendent Adrian Hutchinson, said: “I am very proud we have become the first British police force to develop our own device.

“With the money we are saving, we are now able to provide more devices to more officers than ever before, saving them the time and inconvenience of either waiting for a biometric device to arrive or taking the suspect into custody."

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said she had always been clear in her ambition to make the “best possible use” of technology to fight crime, adding: “The speed of analysis of information that this device will offer, will drive effectiveness and efficiency and allow officers to spend more time in our communities and fighting crime.

“This new technology was developed from the ground up with the full involvement of our officers.”

In a recent case study, officers from the Met’s Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Command were out on an operation in Ilford to tackle and disrupt the major issue of child sexual exploitation in the area.

While patrolling, police spotted and stopped a 21-year-old man whom they believed was wanted for a sexual assault on a child.

The suspect refused to give any identification details and after initial questioning, officers took the decision to scan his fingerprints there and then.

The INK device rapidly identified that the suspect was the man wanted for the offence and he was arrested and charged.

Meanwhile, the Met’s first central London trial of live facial recognition technology has led to four arrests.

Two were the direct result of the technology identifying individuals wanted in connection with violent offences.

A third suspect was held for failing to comply with a notification under the Sexual Offences Act and the fourth for drugs offences by officers who had been deployed to support the facial recognition trial.  

Last week, last-minute Christmas shoppers on the UK’s busiest streets were targeted as policing attempts to give live facial recognition technology credence despite a critical press.

The Met saw it put to use in Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square for eight hours each on two separate days.

Britain's Information Commissioner has launched an investigation following "significant concerns" over the technology's legality and effectiveness.

Last month a study concluded "considerable investment" was needed to deliver consistent results after South Wales Police reported crashing computer systems and poor quality images during its trials.

The rollout of trials across London’s West End comes at the end of the Met’s ten technology pilots which will now involve a “full evaluation”, according to Scotland Yard’s strategic lead for live facial recognition, Commander Ivan Balhatchet.

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