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Cheshire deploys facial recognition to target cross border OCGs

Facial recognition has been deployed by a force in a joint operation to target OCGs using the motorway network.

Cheshire has deployed 150 officers in a targeted operation against criminals using the road network – backed by facial recognition technology.

Operation Crossbow, delivered jointly with Greater Manchester, is aimed at disrupting county lines gangs operating around 200 drug supply routes in the region and other criminality.

A day of action involved stop checks on all vehicles linked to criminal activity or operating on the roads illegally that were identified by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

For the first time, Cheshire used Operator-Initiated Facial Recognition (OFIR) to confirm identities.

Superintendent Sarah Heath: “We are relentless in our pursuit to disrupt criminal activity especially on and around our borders - we will use all the resources available to us to make it even more difficult for those intent on crossing the border to commit crime."

Cheshire is using two forms of facial recognition – Retrospective Facial Recognition (RFR) and Operator Initiated Facial Recognition (OIFR).

During a stop officers photograph a person’s face and compare it in real time to a reference image database to assist them to confirm the identity of the person in front of them.

It can be used when someone is believed to have provided false details and cannot provide identification.

And as part of the operation, out of area offenders were issued with warning cards with advice not to return to the area.

The Operation Yellow Card initiative uses a football-style card approach to dispersals. An early warning is issued to suspected offenders who are then given a second warning if they are caught again.

Following this a range of options will be considered including dispersal notices and civil orders.

A record will be kept of those people spoken to, and this information will be reviewed should any crimes subsequently come to light.

For GMP, the operation is part of work by a specialist team to target county lines gangs. The force was given extra support in April by the Home Office to increase operations – a decision based on official data.

Cheshire’s Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “It’s quite clear, we will not stop in pursuing those who are intent on coming into Cheshire to commit crime.
“Operation Crossbow is a prime example of how, by working with neighbouring forces, we can bolster our collective knowledge in taking out criminals who rely on the road network to commit offences.
He added: “We cannot underestimate the impact of cross-border crime on our local communities and we will do all we can to protect the public we serve.”

And Cheshire aren’t the first to use the technology in operations.

The Metropolitan Police revealed last week that live facial recognition software had been used to support three arrests.

The Met said the deployment was clearly signposted and local neighbourhood officers engaged with the public to explain the technology and hand out leaflets.

A man wanted for assaulting an emergency worker, a man wanted for drugs offences and a woman wanted for failing to appear in court were arrested.

Detective Chief Superintendent Owain Richards, from the Central West Basic Command Unit, said: “This innovative technology, alongside our officers, enables us to find people that pose a serious risk to our community so that we can keep the people of London safe.”

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