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New facial recognition system compares York crime suspects with mugshots

York and Peel police partnered on the digital system launched today that stores, searches and compares crime scene images with criminal booking photos
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York Regional Police launched a facial recognition system today that will be used to store, search and compare crime scenes with mugshots of criminals.

The technology allows police to compare images of suspects or persons of interest with mugshots in an existing database in accordance with the Identification of Criminals Act, according to a York Regional Police news release.

York Regional Police and Peel Regional Police, which are partnering on the facial recognition technology, researched best practices around the use of the technology in an investigative capacity in consultation with the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario. IDEMIA was selected as a vendor for the facial recognition system, the force said.

"Sharing a system encourages collaboration and inter-agency information sharing, while decreasing the purchasing, maintenance and operating costs," the release stated.

“As we’re all too aware, criminals don’t limit their activity to a single jurisdiction,” said York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween. “Partnering with Peel Regional Police is cost effective and enables us to collaborate more extensively to make both communities safer.”

Images are not gathered or obtained by police from any live CCTV footage or any other live-streaming material including social media — they are collected during the course of an investigation, following a criminal incident, police said.

Law enforcement agencies and border checkpoints across Canada are already using facial recognition technology to help solve crimes, police added.

Individuals whose criminal booking images (mugshots) have been captured by York Regional Police under the authority of the Identification of Criminals Act may be eligible to have their photographs and fingerprints destroyed provided certain criteria are met. All fees for photograph and fingerprint destruction requests have been waived by York Regional Police.