‘Mainly using cctv, open-source videos’: Face recognition software used in 137 of 1,800 arrests in Northeast Delhi riots, says Police

A total 231 of the 1,818 arrests so far had been made possible using the latest technological tools, Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava said.

More than a hundred individuals arrested in connection with last year’s riots in Northeast Delhi were identified by a facial recognition system (FRS), the Commissioner of Delhi Police said on Friday. A total 231 of the 1,818 arrests so far had been made possible using the latest technological tools, Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava said.

“Of 231 such arrests, 137 persons were identified through our facial recognition system. The FRS was matched with police criminal records, and many accused were caught,” he said at the Commissioner’s annual press conference at Delhi Police headquarters. “Over 94 accused were identified and caught with help of their driving licence photos and other information,” Shrivastava said.

Fifty-three people were killed and at least 581 were injured in the riots, and 755 FIRs were registered, police said. Police on the ground made sure everyone’s complaints were registered, and a “free and fair investigation” took place, Shrivastava said.

“The riots reached its peak on February 24 and 25 last year. We responded to grievances from everyone and registered complaints immediately. For the investigation, three Special Investigation Teams were formed. These teams were given 60 cases. The remaining cases are with the Northeast district police,” the Commissioner said.

One case, alleging a larger criminal conspiracy behind the violence, was registered later. This case was taken up by the Special Cell, police said.

The accused were arrested “mainly” on the basis of CCTV footage and open-source videos, police said. One of the rioters, who wore a yellow and blue jacket, was identified by his “clothes”; he was seen in footage from three-four CCTV cameras, attacking police and residents with weapons, police said. “Since he was seen in several bits of footage with weapons at Chand Bagh on February 24, we used FRS and he was identified. The accused was later arrested,” an officer said.

“Our teams retrieved deleted data from electronic devices of people present in the riots. We also used geo-location to ascertain the presence of the accused (at a particular place),” the Commissioner said.

Police also deployed teams to reconstruct crime scenes using drone mapping and AI tools. The Special Cell and Cyber Unit used, apart from facial recognition, DNA fingerprinting, e-Vahan database, and ballistic analyses, police said.

‘No intelligence failure on January 26’

Further, Shrivastava said “there was no intelligence failure” during the tractor rally which turned violent on January 26. “We had been holding talks with them (farmers)… As per the agreement, certain terms and conditions were laid down and they were given designated routes to take out their tractor parade… But they betrayed the trust of Delhi Police and resorted to violence. The police discharged its duties very well,” he said.

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