Mobile app helps public ID suspects wanted by police

Northamptonshire Police is the latest force to roll out the Facewatch ID app following its success in London and Surrey when it was launched last year by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Surrey Police.

Jan 24, 2013
By Paul Jacques
Chief Superintendent Davy Beck

Northamptonshire Police is the latest force to roll out the Facewatch ID app following its success in London and Surrey when it was launched last year by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Surrey Police.

The app allows the public to assist the police in identifying ‘people of interest’ from their smartphones. The MPS received more than 180 positive IDs in just six months between June and December 2012.

Superintendent Dave Hill, head of organisational delivery at Northamptonshire Police, said: “Mobile phone technology, social networking and real-time communications are all a part of modern life. As a force we recognise that the demand for this must be met with modern-day policing.

“This innovative application is an exciting step towards this for us and will not only help us solve more crime, but will also allow members of the public to play an active part in it. People can view the images, when they like, where they like. And if they recognise someone, they can simply send an immediate response through.”

The app will also be available on officers’ BlackBerry phones, so that they can view the images while they are out on duty, allowing for quick identification.

Facewatch ID is available free of charge on iPhone, BlackBerry and Android smartphones through the relevant app stores. When a user inputs their postcode into the app they will see a number of CCTV images of individuals uploaded by the Northamptonshire Police CCTV team. 

If a member of the public is able to identify an image they then have the option to confidentially upload any information they may have. Searches can be narrowed down by choosing a radius around a specific postcode.

The ‘people of interest’ are those being sought by the force in connection with an incident or active investigation who officers would like the public’s help in identifying.

This new development forms part of a wider focus by the Northamptonshire Police on ‘justice’, where more information relating to crimes will be made available to the public.

Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Adam Simmonds said: “People can view the images by simply inputting a postcode into the screen and selecting a radius of up to five miles. This will display a number of images of people connected to incidents in their selected area with a function for providing information immediately and confidentially to the police. For me, victims of crime are a top priority.  The aim is to keep members of the public, and more specifically victims of crime, involved in the justice process.”

The faces of Northamptonshire’s most wanted people can still be seen online on the force website.

The Most Wanted section allows the police to appeal to the public for information about people officers either want to speak to in connection with an offence or who are wanted on a warrant for failing to appear at court or on recall to prison.

“This new ‘people of interest’ section forms part of a wider focus that we have launched, focusing on the justice theme, on our website. We want to inform and involve our communities more in the justice process. This section on our website will provide members of the public with quick and easy access to people we want to identify, people who are wanted as well as good results of people who are now behind bars.”

The public will also be kept updated with the details of court sentences that will be available to view online.

Facewatch director Michael O’Sullivan said: “Facewatch ID has proven to be highly successful in encouraging the general public to assist the police in solving crime in London, with over 100,000 downloads of the app and 8.5 million images viewed in the first five months of use during 2012.”

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