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Mobile app shares CCTV images shortly after crimes are committed

With the prevalence of smartphones, it makes sense to use them for the purposes of fighting crime. A new app created by West Midlands Police does just that. But how does it combine CCTV technology with mobile devices to catch crooks?

Portable Surveillance

The majority of mobiles sold in the UK today can be categorised as smartphones, with major platforms such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone dominating the market and endowing users with multifunctional capabilities and always-on web connections.

Smartphones are not just great conduits for communication and entertainment, but can also serve a practical purpose in facilitating the quick capture of criminals in the community, as proven by a new scheme operated by West Midlands Police. The project has a simple goal, which is to distribute images of criminals caught by CCTV security systems shortly after their crimes have been detected, so that members of the public are able to identify them and alert the police to their location.

BBC News reports that the images are sent out to locals via a smartphone application, which is also compatible with popular tablet devices, so that people can access them when they are out and about and most likely to come into contact with those who have got on the wrong side of the law.

Around 200 images from CCTV were passed on to smartphone owners via the app during its trial run, according to police spokesperson Detective Chief Inspector Adrian Atherley.

Clearly the scheme has been a modest success because a total of nine arrests were made as a direct result of these images being disseminated amongst an alert group of crime-fighting citizens.

Retail Participation

Of course, the police do not normally have such immediate access to CCTV footage captured by businesses, so the scheme relies upon local retailers participating and agreeing to pass on pictures of those who have been reported as shoplifters so that they can then arrive on the smartphones of those in the area via the application.

The app, known as FaceWatch, relies on a network of CCTV controllers collaborating with police, passing on crime reports and images as soon as they occur so that a decision can be made as to whether they warrant use in the context of the mobile distribution service.

Obviously, there will be concerns about privacy, but the reality is that most people will have their image captured hundreds of times in a typical day as they move in and out of the various CCTV networks that exist across the UK.

Giving police a faster way to get images of those accused of committing crimes is certainly a good thing, since it means they can do their jobs more efficiently and reduce the chance of mistakes being made.

It will be interesting to see whether smartphones and CCTV services become even more closely aligned in the future, since it seems like these technologies are ideal companions and present a powerful crime prevention tool that both the police and members of the public can harness.

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