PSNI trials new ‘Robocop’ anti-crime algorithm

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The PSNI has trialled an algorithm that flags ‘negative language’ on the internet to preempt criminal threats such as terrorism, human trafficking, child pornography, robberies, drug dealing and the illegal trade of human organs.

The software was produced as part of the European Union’s Intelligent Information System Supporting Observation, Searching and Detection for Security of Citizens in Urban Environment (INDECT), a project which is also attempting to develop a CCTV system that automatically identifies potentially threatening situations using video analytics.

The PSNI has trialled the INDECT algorithim and provided feedback to the EU funded project but said it did not use the software in a live operation.

In a statement of response to a Freedom of Information request, the PSNI said: “Teeside University partially developed a piece of software which attempted to recognise ‘negative language’ on open source web sites.

“The software was not fully developed nor utilised in a live environment by the PSNI but PSNI did test the trial software and fed back its findings.

“As this software was not fully developed by the INDECT project the PSNI do not have any name or further details on the research.”

INDECT has focused on automatic threat detection in urban environments and has developed complex software to support decision-making in combating criminal activities and thwarting terrorist attacks.

As well as developing software to trawl the internet for ‘alarm’ words it has also improved closed-circuit television strategies to focus on potential threats rather than on continuous monitoring of day-to-day activity.

Its systems automatically alert operators if a threat is detected, enabling them to make a decision on whether to react.

Project members also developed software to detect sources of child pornography or data on illegal trading in human organs. They have focused on data and privacy protection techniques using digital watermarking and cryptographic software.

INDECT claims this helps combat malicious tampering with multimedia, improving security of data transmission and storage. The system is designed to protect against the exploitation of sensitive information such as license plate numbers or faces.

The purpose of INDECT is to involve European scientists and researchers in the development of solutions to and tools for automatic threat detection.

The primary objective is to develop algorithms for human decision support in combating terrorism and other criminal activities, such as human trafficking, child pornography, detection of dangerous situations (e.g. robberies) and the use of dangerous objects (e.g. knives or guns) in public spaces. Efficient tools for dealing with such situations are crucial to ensuring the safety of citizens. A significant part of the project is dedicated to the development of tools and methods for data and privacy protection. Dedicated tools are being developed to protect citizens’ privacy in areas covered by visual monitoring systems.