Lancashire Constabulary pilots third generation E-fit technology

Lancashire Constabulary is the first force in the UK to successfully trial a groundbreaking new facial composition technique.

Feb 28, 2008
By Paul Jacques

Lancashire Constabulary is the first force in the UK to successfully trial a groundbreaking new facial composition technique, widely considered as the third generation E-fit system, which is used by police forces around the world.

Lancashire Constabulary has been working with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) for six months piloting the new technology to create an accurate picture of a suspect of crime and help catch criminals.

The pilot is being funded by Crime Solutions at UCLan and Stirling University.

EvoFIT is a new facial composite system for victims and witnesses to construct a likeness of a criminal’s face. It was first used by Lancashire Constabulary back in August to identify a potential suspect in a rape case of a young girl in Blackpool.

A further 20 EvoFITs have been used by the force since, predominantly for serious sexual assaults across the county. Four cases are currently awaiting trial and a further two have resulted in potential suspects being identified.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Webster said: “EvoFIT has been a revelation. Following the six month trial we have been so impressed with the new technology that we are in the process of making it available across all our divisions for more frequent crimes such as car crime.

“So far EvoFIT has been predominantly used by FMIT (Force Major Investigation Team) to identify serious offenders but we are hoping to start using it for all levels of crime as our success rate has increased up to 300 per cent.

“Although the new system is still in its pilot stage and continues to be evaluated, we are keen to persevere with the technology because it is working and we are reaping the benefits. Not only are we catching criminals faster, it is saving us thousands of pounds in terms of resources for investigations by providing that all-important name.

Lancashire Constabulary believes that EvoFIT plays a significant role in an investigation.

DCI Webster added: “The acid test is whether victims or witnesses think they could recognise the person if they saw them again. If they could, it is likely that they could also construct an EvoFIT. We currently have 17 officers specially trained in the new technology and have a target of 30 by the end of 2008.

Dr Charlie Frowd, who has engineered the new technology, said: “EvoFIT has been ten years in development and has involved dozens of different research experiments. It has emerged from a collaboration between three universities – Stirling, Edinburgh and Central Lancashire – and the software company, ABM.

“The main benefit about EvoFIT is the way in which composites are constructed. The approach and way in which a face is formulated differs from E-Fit and opens up the technology to a lot more people. The potential benefactors include children, the elderly and even those with learning difficulties.

“It is not essential for victims or witnesses to describe or articulate facial features; instead they are shown sets of whole faces and simply need to indicate which ones looks like the person in question. The system also has the ability to change the age, weight and other holistic aspects of a face, further improving the likeness.

“The process normally takes less time than E-Fit and provides a far superior and more accurate result.”

The system is based on research into how the human mind processes information. EvoFIT breeds the selected faces together, combining characteristics, and a composite is `evolved` over time. Research has been published in scientific journals that demonstrate a higher naming rate for EvoFIT composites than traditional computerised composites.

Last month DCI Webster and Dr Frowd presented the new system to the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) Burglary Conference held in Winsford, Cheshire where police forces share ideas and gain from best practice. EvoFIT created enormous interest, so much so it is also being presented at the National Distraction Burglary Conferenc

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