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Here's the new technology gardaí will be using to track down offenders

It has an impressive hit rate.

Image: EvoFIT

YOU CAN IMAGINE why it’s not always easy to recall what the person who stole your purse – or much, much worse – looked like.

The search to track down an offender has always involved an element of creating an image of what they looked like, to varyingly successful degrees.

Thankfully no longer do gardaí use manual photofit kits or even computer generated e-fits like this.

Now, they’ve moved onto the next generation of image, EvoFIT.

gard evofit Source: Aoife Barry

TheJournal.ie popped down to Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park today to find out how it all works.

What do we know about EvoFit?

Its official site tells us that EvoFit produces composites that have a correct suspect identification rate of 60%, compared to 5% from ‘feature’ systems.

The Garda Síochána now joins 16 British police forces (including the PSNI) in using EvoFIT.

Members of the force are being trained in using the technology, and six facial identification officers based in the garda HQ’s photographic section will operate the system.

Detective Sergeant Paul Curran emphasised that it’s not an office-based system.

114 Garda facial recognition copy Commissioner Noiri­n O'Sullivan and Garda Ian Redican from The Garda Photography Section. Source: graphy: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The gardaí can bring EvoFIT on a laptop to a home, or even a hospital bed in the quest to track down offenders.

With EvoFIT to hand, they interview witnesses or victims in a qualitative way, teasing out information about the suspected offenders.

They’re not allowed to use leading questions, and even the features of EvoFIT that allow them to make a suspect look angry or threatening are not labelled as such, to ensure the person describing them isn’t led.

020 Garda facial recognition copy Source: graphy: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

They do ask questions about the face as a whole, and personality of the faces.

The witness/victim initially chooses two faces out of a selection of 18, and then they move on to narrow down the features using tools. The resulting composite can even be made as an animated image.

The Garda Síochána says it will take up to a year of feedback and evaluation to compile success statistics, but there have already been two positive nominations of suspects since January.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said that EvoFIT demonstrates the force’s “commitment to innovation and continuous improvement”.

When it works

Here’s one example of how it worked, in the case of an indecent assault that took place in Stanley Park in Blackpool in the UK.

After an EvoFIT image was produced following an interview with the victim, the image on the left was circulated in the park.

evofit 1 Source: EvoFIT

The man was named by locals, and police arrested him. He was later convicted for the attempted rape of a child under 13, and jailed for seven years as well as being placed on the Sex Offenders Register in the UK for life.

Here are some further examples of EvoFIT images:

evofit 2 Source: EvoFIT

evofit3

EvoFIT says that it is the result of 15 years of laboratory research, and that police field trials and peer-reviewed technical papers vouch for its effectiveness.

Witnesses and victims are able to select from screens of complete faces, and then put together a composite resembling the alleged offender.

“The system does not require eyewitnesses to have good recall of an offender’s face, unlike the traditional ‘feature’ methods, just to have seen it clearly,” say its founders. EvoFIT was developed in the UK.

Read: Woman arrested after cocaine seized in Lucan raid last night>

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