Met Police: Live facial recognition cameras result in 17 arrests in south London


Image caption,

The technology has been used multiple times in Croydon, south London

Live facial recognition cameras were used to arrest 17 people in south London last week.

The Metropolitan Police made the arrests in Croydon and Tooting. Included in those was a 23-year-old man who was found with two rounds of blank ammunition.

The force said the technology is used for “precision policing”.

Big Brother Watch’s Madeleine Stone, called it “Orwellian”.

The campaign group’s senior advocacy officer said: “Everyone wants dangerous criminals off the street, but papering over the cracks of a creaking policing system with intrusive and Orwellian surveillance technology is not the solution.

“Rather than actively pursuing people who pose a risk to the public, police officers are relying on chance and hoping that wanted people happen to walk in front of a police camera.”

The Met Police said the 17 arrests were made during deployments in Croydon on 19 and 21 March and in Tooting on 21 March.

BBC News has asked if any of those arrested so far have been charged but no confirmation was provided.

Image caption,

The cameras sit on top of vans

After the 23-year-old was arrested in Tooting, officers carried out a section 18 search warrant that evening and found six rounds of ammunition, stolen mobile phones, a large quantity of cannabis and a stolen Oyster card linked to a robbery in 2022.

He was flagged by the system because he was wanted for possession of points and blades, the force said.

It added that he remained in police custody.

Image caption,

A large quantity of cannabis was found during a search warrant after a man was flagged by the live facial recognition cameras

Lindsey Chiswick, director of intelligence for the Met and national lead for facial recognition, said: “Precision policing is us working efficiently to deliver a high level of service for Londoners.

“We do not keep your data. If there is no match, your data is immediately and automatically deleted in seconds.

“An independent study has confirmed the algorithm we use is accurate. Through this testing we also understand how to use the technology in a fair way with no bias in relation to race or gender.

“Ultimately live facial recognition technology is here to keep Londoners safe through accurately identifying people the police want to talk to.”

The force says the technology identifies people who are on a “bespoke watchlist” which can include people who are wanted and have outstanding arrest warrants.

Image caption,

The force said data is deleted in seconds if there is no match

The arrests in Croydon were for:

  • A registered sex offender arrested for breaching his conditions
  • A woman wanted for assault by beating and common assault
  • A woman wanted for a pickpocketing offence in Enfield
  • A man wanted for common assault
  • A man wanted for fraud by false representation
  • A man wanted for theft
  • A man wanted for breaching a court order
  • A man wanted for breaching the conditions of his tag
  • A man wanted for breaching his restraining order
  • A man wanted for burglary
  • A man wanted for theft
  • A woman wanted for theft
  • A man wanted for threatening behaviour
  • A woman wanted for obstructing a constable

The arrests in Tooting were for:

  • A man wanted for racially aggravated harassment
  • A man wanted for breach of tag conditions

The force said that local officers provide “information and reassurance” during these deployments.

During the deployment on 19 March in Croydon officers also arrested three other men for possession of knives.


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