Software Developed to Match Police Sketches, Mug Shots

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News Posted: Sun, Mar 6 2011 9:14 PM
It is cool enough that the authorities can match DNA or fingerprints in national databases, but here is something just as cool. Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a set of algorithms and software that can automatically match police sketches to mug shots in law enforcement databases.

MSU doctoral student Brendan Klare, who was one of the leaders of the research team, said,
“We’re dealing with the worst of the worst here. Police sketch artists aren’t called in because someone stole a pack of gum. A lot of time is spent generating these facial sketches so it only makes sense that they are matched with the available technology to catch these criminals.”
The algorithms MSU developed compare eye, nose, and chin shapes, as well as other facial structures, between pairs of images.

The software was 45 percent correct when comparing sketches against a database of more than 10,000 mug shots. The sketches used were from actual crimes in which the criminal was later identified.


While 45 percent is a small percentage when compared about the 100 percent accuracy of a DNA match, DNA isn't always available, and anyone who has done research knows that eyewitness testimony is often flawed.

The MSU team intends to field test the system in about a year.
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coolice replied on Mon, Mar 7 2011 2:49 AM

Hmm, interesting.

Watching tv shows like CSI has really ruined my perception of what the police can and cannot do hahha. Well, w/e it takes to get the bad guy off the streets... though with a 45% success rate, i hope no innocent people get into trouble.

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@coolice: Agree. Most people are not particularly good eyewitnesses. I've never been impressed with the rendered picture and the photograph taken later.

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Untrained people are horrid witnesses guys. It takes a whole lot of training to actually be a reliable witness, something that even most police do not get. Also a 45% match is very helpful, since this system would be ment to give leads. Considering that in some places the solved murder rate is 20% or less, anything to help is good.

BTW, CSI and shows like that do totally destroy peoples perception of what the police can do. The vast majority of crimes go unsolved and the ones that are solved are because the perp was a relation/spouse/sig other/etc of the vic or the perp did something really stupid.

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coolice replied on Mon, Mar 7 2011 5:36 PM

I was thinking... honest to god, they should have some police-admin courses taught in highschool. Simple things such as, if you witness something, what to report, what things to notice, what you should do. what number should you call, who to talk to.

Hell, even simple things such as what your registration (car) papers look like, what rights do you have as a citizen if in trouble etc.

Would do wonders.

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My sister is one of those people who can draw those sketches. She does it for the local and state police here in Virginia.

She is an artist as a hobby, and one that she got into when she retired as a Nurse. She has attended classes in many types of forensic science and she can construct the proper or most likely face using clay, from just a human skull when she has to.

She has been instrumental in identifying cadavers for the police.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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coolice replied on Tue, Mar 8 2011 2:08 AM

Wow! thats incredible!

constructing faces on clay... thats just amazing!

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