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The Metropolitan Police is to use “game-changing” facial recognition technology in a move to crackdown on London’s most prolific retail offenders. 

The technology maps facial features from the CCTV stills against custody images, with matches revealed in around 60 seconds.

Retail crime is responsible for the loss of an estimated £1.9bn in revenue in the UK each year, according to The Met Police.

It follows a pilot scheme carried out at the end of September which identified 149 suspects from 302 CCTV stills in just a matter of days. 

The Met Police reached out to 12 leading retailers, requesting CCTV images of their top 30 unidentified serial offenders.

Local officers are now working with retailers to help track down and build cases against the 149 suspects identifed, some of whom are wanted for multiple offences.

Mark Rowley commissioner for The Metropolitan Police said: “We’re working with shops across the capital to target and track down criminals in a way we never have before. We’re pushing the boundaries and using innovation and technology to rapidly identify criminals.The results we’ve seen so far are game-changing. The use of facial recognition in this way could revolutionise how we investigate and solve crime.

“What’s most powerful is what we’ve learned about those involved in this offending so far. It’s clear the majority are career criminals involved in serious crime. This data and information helps us focus our efforts in an even more precise way than we originally anticipated. Through this tactic we’re not only improving how we protect shops and support the business community, we’re stepping further forward in identifying and tracking down serious criminals and protecting all of London’s communities.The scale of business crime in London is huge. To be successful we have to be precise in our approach and this is a really promising step.”

The Met Police said that one in ten Londoners work in retail and that its technology-led approach is one of its latest examples of how they are tackling crimes impacting communities and people across the city.