Facial Recognition Software Spots
Gang Members"> Officer Damien Levesque, who previously worked in the Rampart Divisions gang unit, joined Gomez at the Office of Operations to begin testing a portable facial-recognition device called the Mobile Identifier. Levesque refers to the Mobile Identifierwhich is built by ViewSonic Corp. of Walnut, Calif., with software developed by Neven Vision of Santa Monica, Calif.as a "traveling mug book."GE Security recommended that the LAPD try Neven Vision in October 2004. At that time, Neven Vision was the only provider of embedded facial-recognition software.The software could run completely on a handheld device instead of having to send an image request to a server for processing, said Hartmut Neven, chief technology officer of Neven Vision. Levesque is the gang units expert on the Mara Salvatrucha gang. Knowing all the gangs members, he took the Mobile Identifier loaded with 1,000 mug shots into the field to see if it could identify gang members as well as he could. When a suspect is scanned with the Mobile Identifier, nine possible images appear in order of best match to worst match. Consistently, Levesque said, the device correctly identified the person in either the first or second position. Three hundred officers operate out of the Rampart district, and 12 officers work in the gang unit. Only two of those 12 are experts on a specific gang, Gomez said. Given the success of the test, "I can deploy anybody and make them a gang expert simply by handing them the pod," he said. "Ive essentially given Damiens knowledge to officers who would otherwise not be able to make this arrest." The success of the video surveillance and identification pilot projects has encouraged the LAPD to look ahead to a complete build-out, Shephard said. The department plans to build a 911 center that ties in all the surveillance cameras already installed around the cityincluding more than 250 cameras used by the Department of Transportation for traffic control, Shephard said. Video from the 911 center will be pushed out to stations in specific districts. Motorola Inc. this year plans to invest $1 million to install a mesh network in the Jordan Downs area of L.A. to wirelessly push surveillance video to notebook computers in patrol cars, Shephard said. Levesque said he is pushing for a complete mobile identification package that can help book suspects in the field with facial recognition, fingerprint scanning and a language translator. "On a basic level, it costs about $125,000 to equip, train and get an officer out into the field," Gomez said. Video surveillance dramatically changes the learning curve, Gomez said. "I can take experienced officers and put them on this camera as a force multiplier, and, boy, its just like I hired 40 experienced officers to do one job." David Spark is a free-lance writer based in San Francisco. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.