Science & Tech
Looking at technology to find fugitives

An immigration detention centre on Rexdale Blvd.

Credits: (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)

TOM GODFREY | TORONTO SUN

Police and border officials are looking at facial recognition technology to help capture war criminals and foreign hoodlums hiding in Canada.

Hi-tech cameras can be installed at train stations, major airports and border crossings. The images of those captured by the devices can be compared to the faces of offenders stored in a database.

The system can even alert officers of suspects who may be travelling with high-quality fake documents since their facial features remain the same, police said.

The mugshots of 30 war crime suspects and 32 foreign criminals sought on "most wanted" lists by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) could be among those stored in a database, officers said. If you want to see the list, log on to CBSA's website at cbsa.gc.ca.

They added such a system could also be used to help nab Canadians or others sought on warrants as long as good-quality photos are available.

The two sets of "most wanted" fugitives were released by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews after prodding by Sun Media. It led to seven accused war criminals being arrested with four being deported to their homelands.

Toews has said the success of a war criminal manhunt led to the release of a dangerous offenders list.

Three people on that list were nabbed. Controversy erupted after the Immigration and Refugee Board released one of those arrested - Walter Ernesto Guzman, 35, of El Salvador.

The technology is already in use at most Ontario casinos to curb cheats and gambling addicts and at Canadian Tire stores to target shoplifters.

Julie Carmichael, an aide of Toews, said the CBSA uses biometric technology in a trusted traveller program for quicker trips across the border.

We are "always looking for new innovative ways to advance our current technology at the border," Carmichael said, adding there is no plan at this time to introduce facial recognition technology.

Ron Moran, president of the Customs and Immigration Union, argued the technology would help nab those sought on warrants for which good-quality photographs are available.

"We have the technology now," Moran said on Friday. "These people can be intercepted at border crossings or other ports-of-entries as they travel."

Moran said mugshots of refugee claimants are taken for immigration files at border points each night. He said the same photos can be taken with facial technology gear that will conduct an instant check for criminality if photographs of the suspect are in the database.

"The technology can be very useful for immigration purposes," he said. "The documents of some travellers can lie but their faces cannot."

Moran said his officials have been calling for the use of the technology for years.

"We have been advocating the use of facial recognition cameras for a long time," he said. "The arrest of one major criminal can justify the cost of the equipment."

The union in a 2008 report said the system can intercept criminals and terrorists.

"Face recognition can create ‘matches' from existing photographs and does not require a provided standard such as a fingerprint or iris scan," the report said. "It has a "capacity to perform ‘one on many' matches to detect multiple identities which is a tool in trade for both organized criminals and terrorists."

Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said his officers endorse the use of facial recognition tools.

"This technology is definitely worth looking at," Stamatakis said. "We have to look at any tool we can use to help apprehend these criminal fugitives."

CBSA officers are deployed at 119 land border crossings between Canada and the U.S.

Police caution people not to try to apprehend fugitives and to report any information to the Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060.

We're getting results! Now you can join the Sun Force and help us get the job done once and for all. Go to Sun Force to sign-up. You can send your tips to us at sun.force@sunmedia.ca or directly to the CBSA Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060. Help us rid our neighborhoods of these wanted fugitives once and for all.

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