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Demonstration of police facial recognition technology


Teddington retailers have welcomed news of the Metropolitan Police’s initiative to use facial recognition to hunt down the increasing numbers of shoplifters targeting local retailers.

The Teddington branch of Marks & Spencer is one of the worst-hit retailers but smaller shops like Teddington Essentials in the High Street and even charity shops are suffering too.

Teddington Essentials owner Parm Safri said:“Shoplifting is a growing problem and although we have CCTV we don’t really expect the police to do anything about it because they are so busy but this will make a big difference.

“On one occasion recently a car stopped right outside the shop and the people in the car just got out and scooped a whole load of items which were on display outside the shop. It was only when someone having a coffee next door at Café Nero alerted us that we even knew about it. It’s definitely a problem.”

Last week a women walked out of the Mary’s Living and Giving Shop in the High Street wearing an expensive pair of shoes and this week another women appeared to steal three items but without cameras, the staff are reticent to intervene.

A spokeswoman for Teddington Together which supports local businesses, Lucy Rock, said: “Local retailers and businesses in Teddington will welcome this initiative as they are dealing with increasing incidents of shoplifting whether it’s the big stores or the smaller independent shops and even charity shops and they do often feel helpless and unsupported.”

Retail crime is responsible for the loss of an estimated £1.9 billion in revenue in London each year with more than 1,000 cases of abuse and violence against staff  reported annually.

A recent survey by the British Retail Consortium showed the total cost of retail crime stood at £1.76 billion in 2021/22. £953 million was lost to customer theft, with eight million incidents of theft over the year. Retailers also spent £715 million on crime prevention in 2021/22.

Over the last few months, the Met has been working closely with the retail sector to understand the challenges they face especially as the cost of living hits households in the pocket.

At the end of September, police wrote to 12 leading London retailers asking them to send CCTV images of their top 30 prolific, but unidentified, offenders.

A specialist team is now using facial recognition technology that maps facial features from the CCTV stills against images in the police custody image database with any matches revealed in around 60 seconds.

Within a matter of days, 149 suspects had been identified from 302 CCTV stills. Some are wanted for more than one offence. Local officers will now work with the stores to build a case and track the suspects down.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said“We’re working with shops across the capital to target and track down criminals in a way we never have before. We’re pushing the boundaries and using innovation and technology to rapidly identify criminals.

”The results we’ve seen so far are game-changing. The use of facial recognition in this way could revolutionise how we investigate and solve crime.

“What’s most powerful is what we’ve learned about those involved in this offending so far. It’s clear the majority are career criminals involved in serious crime. This data and information helps us focus our efforts in an even more precise way than we originally anticipated.

“Through this tactic we’re not only improving how we protect shops and support the business community, we’re stepping further forward in identifying and tracking down serious criminals and protecting all of London’s communities.

“The scale of business crime in London is huge. To be successful we have to be precise in our approach and this is a really promising step forward.”

This latest initiative is another example of how the police is taking a precise and technology-led approach to tackling the crimes that are impacting communities like Teddington.

A spokesperson said: “We’ve simplified how they can send us evidence of offending (including CCTV, images and statements), enabling offers to take quicker and more effective action. New targeted operations are also being delivered to stem the onward sale of stolen goods and over the coming months we’ll be speaking to local business across London to understand what more we can do.”



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