Croydon Mayor gives total backing to facial recognition methods in borough

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy reporter

The Mayor of Croydon has shown support for the Met’s facial recognition operations, saying ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear’.

Croydon’s mayor Jason Perry backed the Met’s continued use of facial recognition operations in the borough, despite the controversy surrounding their presence in high streets.

Mr Perry praised the operation’s efficiency in leading to data-driven arrests. He also said this success shows ‘local police are taking policing the town centre seriously’.

He added: “If you’re a law-abiding citizen going about your day, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The reality is that the system is picking up people on wanted lists.

“I’m always of the view that if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear, so for most of us it doesn’t mean anything. What it does mean is that people who are breaking and evading the law are being taken off the streets.

Jason Perry (Picture: JP)

“We are also doing a lot of partnership work with the Met about how to improve the town centre. It should all lead to safer streets, which is what I think all of us want.”

A recent deployment of the scheme on North End last Friday led to 11 arrests made by officers. These included a man wanted for two counts of rape and three others wanted for harassment, domestic assault and voyeurism.

When the Met Police first rolled out these operations earlier this year, they were met with vocal challenges from the public and campaign groups alike.

The criticisms mainly centered around the operation’s potential to infringe on the privacy of innocent individuals and the continued use of stop-and-search tactics.

Zoë Garbett, the Green Party’s candidate for Mayor of London, said: “The rapid expansion of facial recognition is a real concern for many people.

“We know some communities are over-policed and under-protected and there are still a lot of questions that need answering to make sure this technology isn’t disproportionately used against them by the Met.”

Despite these concerns, the increased visibility of these operations and the publication of arrest reports by the Met has encouraged some support from the wider Croydon community.

Antony King, chairman of the My Ends Project, a partnership to combat crime which brings together young people, police, headteachers and the council, said: “There were initial fears that it was operating like a Big Brother system. However, people are now coming around to it and celebrating the great work that has happened. It’s swings and roundabouts.

Anthony King (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

“It has caught rapists, paedophiles and violent and aggressive people. One arrest was of an individual that was sought after for serious sexual offences he evaded police for years.”

The Met said: “We are using Live Facial Recognition technology to respond to community concerns about crime in their area.

“Live Facial Recognition technology identifies wanted people and ensures that people are complying with their bail conditions, court orders and other restrictions. As part of our deployment officers from the Met discussed Live Facial Recognition technology with community groups.

Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain who leads policing in Croydon, said: “It’s a vital tool for us to use to keep our communities safe.”

Pictured top: A facial recognition operation in Croydon (Picture: Harrison Galliven/LDRS)

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