NYPD Uses Facial Recognition to ID Suspects in Jewellery Heist

Biometrics News - NYPD Police Use Facial Recognition to ID Suspects in Jewellery Heist

Police have now identified the three suspects involved in a brazen jewellery heist in New York that made headlines over the weekend, and the NYPD says it’s thanks to biometric technology.

The heist occurred at Avianne & Co. Jewelers, where three men held up the employees at gunpoint, subdued them with zip ties and duct tape, and loaded jewellery into a duffel bag before taking off. All told, about $4 million worth of products were stolen, though no employees were hurt.

No one has yet been apprehended, and the NYPD has revealed very little about its investigation. But the police force has disclosed to media that surveillance footage from the jewellery store has enabled them to use facial recognition to identify the culprits, whose faces were found within an NYPD database.

With police being characteristically tight-lipped about an ongoing investigation, the disclosure about their use of facial recognition offers some indication of the law enforcement agency’s interest in highlighting the benefits of facial recognition technology at a time of considerable public concern over its use. This past June, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill penned an op-ed in the New York Times explaining that facial recognition is a useful tool for police in preliminary attempts to identify suspects whose images are found in crime scene surveillance footage. O’Neill emphasized that biometric matches are performed only against databases of arrest photos, and that human-led investigations are then needed to confirm initial matches.

This is a perhaps less controversial approach than the one taken by Maryland police last summer in their efforts to identify the suspect in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette offices in Annapolis; in that case, police matched the individual’s image against a database of both mug shots and driver license photos. Nevertheless, they too were keen to highlight the utility of biometric identification in their investigation.

As for the NYPD’s jewellery heist investigation, police say they have received numerous tips that are expected to also help them find and apprehend the suspects.

Sources: NBC 4 New York, New York Daily News

August 29, 2019 – by Alex Perala