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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Police seek to tap emerging tech to transform into a hi-tech force

Use of AI, face recognition tools may grow as tech-driven solutions replace manual processes

Policing India’s millions has usually meant stick-wielding men relying on arcane techniques. However, a new generation is beginning to embrace technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and collaborating with digital leaders to fight crime.

When realization dawned that a majority of criminals were not being booked because of either political pressure or sheer reluctance of officials manning the complaints registration, Maithili Sharan Gupta, special director general of police (public reforms), Madhya Pradesh, struck upon the idea of recording the first information reports (FIRs) electronically to reduce human involvement by filing them through apps, websites or even an Internet of Things (IoT) device.

“Getting an FIR registered is a big challenge for the public," he said. “If an offence is not registered in the first place, a criminal is exonerated at the beginning. If there is no documentation, there is no question of prosecution and conviction," Gupta added.

Friendly reporting systems is only one element of a five-pronged strategy being considered by the Madhya Pradesh police. Its other plans include identifying and capturing digital and non-digital evidence using AI and machine learning (ML), face recognition, virtually predicting crimes, and identifying and rehabilitating people dependent on crime for a livelihood. Some of these initiatives are expected to be ready within a year and will be rolled out in phases, Gupta said.

The Madhya Pradesh police force is working with 30 universities and educational institutions on various projects, while Wipro will provide technical support.

It is not only the police in Madhya Pradesh that have woken up to the use of technology. Their counterparts in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are also sowing the seeds of a high-tech force. They have built an AI-enabled criminal database using AI-based human face detection (ABHED), which was developed by Gurugram-based Staqu Technologies. So, whenever they spot suspicious characters, policemen can whip out their smartphones, take a picture and tap into the database to determine whether he/she is a criminal.

“The technology may not be 100% reliable, but it makes our job easier," said Nilabh Kishore, former inspector general, Punjab Police, who is now serving as the deputy inspector general of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. “Now we have access to photos, criminal activity and physical details of 150,000 criminals on our fingertips," Kishore said. Such data was earlier compiled separately across various state districts and different physical records were maintained, which made crime prevention an onerous task because police didn’t have quick access to it. Staqu was also instrumental in deploying an AI-based prison monitoring system in 70 prisons across Uttar Pradesh. The platform, Jarvis, analyses feeds from 700 cameras installed inside prisons to detect acts of violence, prison breaches, or unauthorized access in real time and alert the authorities. The AI algorithm has been trained using millions of video samples of violent acts.

The use of emerging technologies in law enforcement is expected to grow as police across the country plan to replace manual processes with tech-driven solutions. The Indraprastha Institute of Technology is helping the Delhi Police leverage AI, social media analytics and image processing to identify criminals, for traffic management and to prevent terrorist activities.

Traditionally, preventing a criminal from escaping would mean setting up a police barricade and peering inside cars to nab them, but Tamil Nadu has upped its game by building an online base of vehicles and installing an AI-based system called Tollscope, which has been linked to 30 toll plazas. If a vehicle used in a crime crosses any of the plazas, the authorities will be immediately alerted. Tamil Nadu and Telangana police are also working on an AI-based automated systems to impose fines on two-wheeler riders without helmets. Telangana, in collaboration with IIIT Hyderabad, is building an ML-based system to identify vehicles that are more likely to violate traffic regulations based on their history of challans. The National Crime Records Bureau aims to deploy a nationwide automated face recognition system to identify criminals, missing people, and unclaimed dead bodies in morgues.

Despite the advancement, experts said that technologies such as face recognition are far from perfect and prone to errors. It was one of the reasons that led authorities in San Francisco and Portland to ban the use of face recognition in surveillance cameras by public agencies. Atul Rai, co-founder and chief executive officer, Staqu Technologies, said: “Even if a facial recognition system has an accuracy rate of 99.7%, there is always a risk of catching the wrong person because of the 0.3% error rate. It is important to have a heterogeneous data matching system with human intervention as there are a lot of environmental factors that can affect the accuracy of a facial recognition system."

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Why law needs tech

As of December 2016, prisons across India had an occupancy rate of 114%. While in Madhya Pradesh the occupancy rate was as high as 208%, in Uttar Pradesh, the figure stood at 168%

Source: India Justice Report 2019

76 people accused of various crimes were nabbed via Trinetra mobile app in JanuaryMarch 2019. The Punjab Police documented at least 150,000 such criminals through the Punjab Artificial Intelligence System


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