The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, a face gallery to pin law-breakers

New Delhi, Jan. 7: Watch it law-breakers and mischief-mongers! The long arm of the law is growing longer and it just might be that much tougher to give sleuths the slip.

The National Crime Records Bureau will soon be setting up a computerised “face library” to facilitate identification of mischief-makers by their physical features.

At present, the faces of accused are reconstructed on the computer according to what witnesses say. What the crime bureau proposes to do is keep a gallery of typical faces — based on which state one comes from or which race one belongs to — against which the most wanted face will be matched.

The new method will again depend on what witnesses recount but it will be easier to track down a criminal if the computer identifies which part of the country he comes from. As of now, the bureau has a gallery of north Indian faces only.

Bureau director Ram Avtar Yadav said police of various states, including Assam, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu, had already been requested to send in pictures of “typical” faces.

“By mixing and matching physical features which differ from region to region, we should be able to come up with portraits that come close to real people,” he said.

An officer of the bureau, which is under the home ministry, said a software to identify criminals by race — Aryan, Dravidian or Mongolian — would be used. Mohammad Afzal, one of the terrorists involved in the Parliament attack, was identified by this method, he said.

“We will use a software called portrait building system to identify criminals based on race. PBS is currently used in the face image reconstruction system designed to run on Windows,” he added.

Although the crime bureau is racing ahead with its plans, Surendranath Grover, head of anthropology in Delhi University and a specialist in forensic science, has expressed doubts. “It is not possible to classify races like Aryan, Mongolian and Dravidian based on physical characteristics. It will be difficult in India since there are variations in features due to inter-caste marriages.”

Grover said even without such marriages, it would be difficult to identify a race based on physical characteristics. “There are Rajputs in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and in Kumaon. But they don’t have the same features since they have been moulded genetically and by the nutrition of a particular region,” he said.

The forensic specialist said as many as 436 communities had been identified by the Anthropological Survey of India. “To formulate a software that attempts to identify the races based on physical characteristic is not feasible, since there will be many sub-sections that too would have to be taken into account, he said.

The crime bureau has set itself the goal of bringing IT to state police and central police organisations in the country. It has already implemented the Crime Criminal Information System and PBS at the national level and developed various police application software for office automation in police organisations.

Under the Crime Criminal Information System, it has installed 740 server-based computer systems in district crime records bureaux and state crime records bureaux across the country. This will help it maintain a national database of crimes, criminals and property connected/involved in crime.

The bureau has installed the Automated Finger Print Identification System which very few countries can claim to have. It also maintains a digitised finger print database.

In the future, CCIS will be integrated with AFIS to provide a super efficient criminal justice system.

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