Pennsylvania’s Justice Network: facial recognition in action!

It’s always exciting to witness our technology in the field and get positive feedback on how it’s helping our clients do better, more effective police work.

Here at Animetrics, we’re hearing good things about our deployment of ForensicaGPS with Pennsylvania’s Justice Network, or JNET. The agency coordinates information and services between about 500 public safety and law enforcement organizations statewide; earlier this summer, it adopted our advanced biometrics application, which works with facial recognition systems to identify individuals in low-resolution photos and convert 2D images into 3D avatars that can be rotated and viewed from any angle and used as evidence as part of investigations

Like many in law enforcement, investigators with Pennsylvania police and sheriff’s departments were looking to more effectively identify suspects caught via video and photo surveillance. The state already had a highly innovative web-based advanced Facial Recognition System (JFRS) – a photo image database containing more than 3.5 million pictures of individuals arrested by police. (All police in the state have access to this system, after undergoing required training.)

But some photos – poor quality images or those in which suspects aren’t facing forward or are partially occluded – can be difficult to compare. Adding ForensicaGPS to its array of tools has allowed Pennsylvania investigators to work more effectively with these more challenging images, using our 3D modeling and “pose correction” to create forward-facing frontal pictures for biometric comparison with images in the suspect database. And while these “matches” aren’t yet statistically admissible as evidence in a court of law today, they do help detectives move cases forward, resolve the identity of the suspect and provide invaluable leads that lay the groundwork for follow-up via traditional investigative techniques. ForensicaGPS resolution of an identity has been able to justify warrants. Our law enforcement clients, in fact, universally describe ForensicaGPS as an investigative biometric tool that helps them find the “bad guys” and make headway on tough cases.

Here are just a few recent success stories from the Pennsylvania files, with some details withheld to protect ongoing investigations…

The case of the tattooed mobster: A long-distance surveillance picture was obtained of a suspect believed to be a member of an organized crime outfit. In the photo, the man was sitting on a park bench, looking to the left. Investigators with the state Attorney General’s Office in Philadelphia cropped the picture to focus in on his face, but could not obtain a match within the state’s criminal database. Using ForensicaGPS, investigators were then able to pose correct the suspect’s face to create a forward-facing image; the enhanced photo then returned a list of top five results. One hit proved particularly useful. The meta-data on one of the five suspects detailed a tattoo on his arm. Through follow-up surveillance of the suspect, police were able to observe the man’s tattoo, confirming the photo database “match.” That irrefutable confirmation linked him to a specific crime, providing sufficient evidence for an arrest warrant.

The case of the mailed drugs: U.S. Postal inspectors in Pennsylvania were working a case in which they suspected drugs were being sent and received through the mail. The agency sent an undercover agent to the home of a suspect, and the agent was able to snap his photo when the man signed for a suspicious package. The agent then used Philadelphia’s extensive image database system and ForensicaGPS’ 3D tools to manipulate the image and run it through the system. A suspect was identified in the results, allowing agents to move the investigation forward.

We all like a good crime story, particularly ones that end in the good guys bringing criminals to justice. At Animetrics, we experience additional pride in playing a positive role in the investigative process, helping police move cases forward.

We look forward to sharing more such tales of successful biometric facial recognition from the field. As law enforcement agencies around the country take notice of these cases – and facial recognition becomes more widely adopted – we’re confident there will be many more stories to tell.

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