Facing up to crime
Harnessing the power of facial identification is critical to police work. Creating a likeness of an offender’s face increases the chance of police tracking them down.
Facial composition technology began in the 1960s with the invention of Identikit: used to help a sketch artist draw a likeness of a face described by a witness.
In the mid ‘70s, this was superseded by Photofit, a tool containing sections of faces in photographic form enabling police to assemble a more realistic representation of an offender.
Limited by the fact that the photographic parts were black and white and hairstyles and accessories quickly dated, Photofit was replaced when Victoria Police specialists led by Adrian Paterson developed the computer program FACE in 1986. In another world first, Victoria Police’s Police Artist Unit created the first police-developed full-colour facial Automated Composition and Editing system.
Created by leading Forensic Artists, this technology allows life-like representations to be created using sophisticated software that can blend or blemish skin tone or subtly adjust details such as the size and shape of a nose, the set of a mouth, or the colour and style of hair. While the 1970s beehives and aviators of Photofit quickly dated, FACE is still in use today.
Facial Recognition Technology
Advanced facial recognition technology is rapidly changing the way police locate and identify offenders. In 2010 Victoria Police introduced iFace, an automatic facial recognition program that allows police to compare images of suspects and criminals against more than 1.3 million mug shots and offender photos.
The system’s automated recognition software works by analysing individuals based on their biological characteristics. The program creates a unique numeric code for every face, using algorithms to measure facial features including face width and the distance between nose, eyes and mouth. It also scans for skin texture and bone structure. This is compared against the facial characteristics of known offenders to generate a match.
The program is so accurate that in a case involving identical twins, iFace was able to distinguish one from the other. After being arrested one of the twins used his brothers identity and pulled faces during his mug shot in an effort to fool police. However, iFace was able to establish his real identity.