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Facial recognition cameras to be used across London

Christian Fernsby |
Facial recognition cameras are to be deployed across London for the first time to help police target serious offenders, the Metropolitan Police (Met) announced.

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In a major new move to fight violent crime, "watch lists" of Britain's most serious offenders will be developed to facilitate live facial checks as London police struggles to deal with serious violence, gun and knife crime and child sexual exploitation.

Anyone identified by the scans will be approached by police officers, asked to identify themselves and arrested if confirmed as wanted men or women. The cameras will also be used to trace missing people and vulnerable children.

Cameras will be set up in busy areas such as in the West End, at major shopping centres, near sports and music events or high crime areas, for stints of five to six hours with officers in the area poised to grab people on their databases, said the Met.

The announcement came after knife crime in London has risen to a new high amid a nationwide surge in blade-offending.

The British Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Thursday that 15,080 knife offences were recorded in the capital during the 12 months to the end of last September.

The ONS data showed a 7 percent rise in knife offending across England and Wales to 44,771 blade crimes, an average of more than 120 incidents a day.

The shift in tactics, which follows earlier police trials of facial recognition in London and elsewhere in Britain, is considered controversial for privacy concerns.

However, the Met, which is battling to reduce record levels of knife offending as well as other serious crime threats, insisted that using the new technology was essential.

"The public rightly expect us to test and to use emerging technology to tackle crime and stop violent criminals. Bearing down on serious violence is our number one priority and we believe we should explore the value of new technology to help us do that," said Met Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave.

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