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Loughborough University to develop cutting edge CCTV that can detect hidden weapons


High-tech systems that will aid CCTV cameras in the identification of people carrying concealed guns are being developed at Loughborough University.

Gun crime is a growing problem in the UK, with almost 11,000 firearm offences recorded in England and Wales in 2004/2005 – an increase of six per cent from the previous year.

The aim of the MEDUSA (Multi Environment Deployable Universal Software Application) project is to try and reduce the occurrence of gun crime by developing intelligent software that is able to detect a person carrying a concealed weapon from CCTV footage, in real time.

Over the next three years academics at Loughborough will work with colleagues from Kingston, Brighton, Liverpool, and Sunderland universities, to develop the software.

The research team will examine genuine CCTV footage of people carrying concealed firearms, to identify any characteristics which are associated with the behaviour and activity of criminals before they commit a gun associated crime. This could be body stance/shape, movement or eye contact with cameras. Using this information they will then develop a novel machine-learning system for behavioural interpretation. This software will enable CCTV camera systems to automatically scan footage, searching for any behavioural characteristics which indicate that an individual may be carrying a gun and, if necessary, alert CCTV operators.

The research team will also develop a training programme for CCTV operators to enable them to improve their ability to detect suspicious characters. For this they will meet with experienced operators and identify the key cues they already utilise to detect people carrying concealed weapons, and then make these available for training purposes. A detailed database of CCTV footage of individuals carrying or not carrying concealed firearms will also be generated, which can then be used by local authorities and the police for training CCTV operators in what to look for.

Professor Alastair Gale, Head of Loughborough University’s Applied Vision Research Centre is leading the MEDUSA project. He said: “The primary aim of this research is to make the UK a safer place to live by reducing the occurrence of gun crime. To do this we need to develop ways of identifying a potential gun crime before an incident occurs – a key instrument in this is CCTV.

“The new software we are creating will significantly improve the ability of CCTV systems to detect and predict gun-related behaviour, enabling individuals to be apprehended before they commit a crime. As the CCTV infrastructure is already in place it would be relatively easy to implement MEDUSA. Its introduction would also lead to the more efficient usage of police time, as well as more socially acceptable police practices as the identification of potential criminals becomes improved. Additionally, the system will yield faster post-event analysis of CCTV footage.

“This is a very ambitious project, but I am confident that by the end of the three years we will be able to demonstrate that CCTV operators using the MEDUSA system are quantitatively more efficient than the same operators working unaided.”

The MEDUSA project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Judy Smyth | alfa
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