Missing people in West Yorkshire could be tracked with facial recognition software

West Yorkshire authorities are applying for funding to improve the county's CCTV system.
West Yorkshire authorities are applying for funding to improve the county's CCTV system.
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Facial recognition software could be used to help find vulnerable missing people in parts of Yorkshire as part of plans to create a fully joined-up CCTV system.

West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner has been given £124,000 by the Home Office to part-fund a feasibility study into an overhaul of the county’s CCTV system, which will be carried out in the next two years.

West Yorkshire authorities are applying for funding to improve the county's CCTV system.

West Yorkshire authorities are applying for funding to improve the county's CCTV system.

Currently, each of West Yorkshire’s five local authority areas has its own CCTV system monitoring cameras in busy areas and public transport hubs, managed by a local community safety partnership.

This means that officials attempting to track a missing person, suspect or vehicle across district boundaries have to swap between CCTV systems.

The study, which will involve the five safety partnerships in West Yorkshire, will look at whether it is possible to create one system covering the county and whether facial recognition software can be introduced into the network.

Such software could potentially allow vulnerable missing people to be tracked automatically as they pass through areas covered by CCTV cameras, rather than officers or control room staff having to go through footage manually.

Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson.

Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson.

The Yorkshire Post reported earlier this year that more than 800 people aged over-65 were reported missing by the region’s police forces last year – and its ageing population means the total is likely to grow in the coming years.

Officials in West Yorkshire applied for money from the Home Office Innovation Fund as a “proof of concept” bid, where funding is sought to turn a partially-formed idea into a fully-formed idea.

Police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “The study will look at an integrated West Yorkshire CCTV system and will also explore the feasibility of identifying the whereabouts of vulnerable missing persons through facial recognition software being included within the system, as looking for missing persons is an area of large demand on police resources.

“The CCTV partnerships currently in place across the county are under pressure because of government funding cuts, so this project will involve working together in partnership including with Safer Leeds to ensure we are helping to secure the CCTV network across West Yorkshire, ensuring our communities are safer and feel safer.”

Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive board member with responsibility for Safer Leeds said: “We are looking forward to working with partners on this feasibility study, which will look at how we can deliver improved CCTV systems across West Yorkshire.

“CCTV plays a vital role in keeping our residents and communities safe, and this will be a great opportunity to tap into the expertise available in the region to identify what opportunities are available to enhance our own service in Leeds.”

A total of £310,000 was requested as part of the CCTV project, with the Home Office supplying £124,000, representing 40 per cent of the total costs for the scheme.

The Home Office also agreed to pay for 40 per cent of two other schemes at the request of West Yorkshire Police.

One, a collaboration with two Leeds universities, the College of Policing and four other police forces, is called ‘More with Less: Authentic Implementation of Evidence-Based Predictive Patrol Plans’. Another scheme will look into the use of technology to improve the reduce the number of ‘missing person incidents’.

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