Mar 062011
 
Michigan State Police sketch of the Genesee Co...

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Algorithms and Software Will Match Sketches With Mugshots in Police Databases

The long-time practice of using police facial sketches to nab criminals has been, at best, an inexact art. But the process may soon be a little more exact thanks to the work of some Michigan State University researchers.

A team led by MSU University Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Anil Jain and doctoral student Brendan Klare has developed a set of algorithms and created software that will automatically match hand-drawn facial sketches to mug shots that are stored in law enforcement databases.

Once in use, Klare said, the implications are huge.

“We’re dealing with the worst of the worst here,” he said. “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.”

Typically, artists’ sketches are drawn by artists from information obtained from a witness. Unfortunately, Klare said, “often the facial sketch is not an accurate depiction of what the person looks like.”

There also are few commercial software programs available that produce sketches based on a witness’ description. Those programs, however, tend to be less accurate than sketches drawn by a trained forensic artist.

The MSU project is being conducted in the Pattern Recognition and Image Processing lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. It is the first large-scale experiment matching operational forensic sketches with photographs and, so far, results have been promising.

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