There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

A picture is worth how many words?

DISCLOSURE: I work in the biometric industry.

As we continue to use new technologies to solve crimes, some older technologies are still used.

“There’s not always going to be a camera,” [crime analyst/forensic artist] Conlon said. “Until we start getting to [an] age where computers are everywhere and Big Brother is watching you, for now the sketch artist is watching you.”

But in the post-NAS world, people are sharing concerns about the use of composite sketches.

In a 2008 study, [journalism professor John] Watson and two other researchers surveyed nearly 400 people who were asked to compare a set of 12 composites with 12 photos and say whether the sketch matched the person. About 30 percent of the respondents thought the sketch matched its corresponding photo. But, it turns out, all of the sketches depicted the person in the matching photo.

In his coming research, Watson will insist that police departments come up with a way to calculate how effective their artists are and develop a system to decide whether the benefits of composites outweigh the possible risks.

So you have to weigh the pros and cons – perhaps composite sketches (generated by an artist, or by software) can help you solve crimes that wouldn’t be solved otherwise. On the other hand, the use of composite sketches may introduce misleading data that leads you to the wrong conclusion.

The Washington Post author, Lynh Bui, concluded that things work best when this technology is used with other technologies. Bui tells the story of a video and composite sketch being used together. The sketch caused people to recall a face of a particular person, but while that person had a similar face, the person’s body was NOT similar to the 220 pound person whose image was captured in the surveillance video.

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