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MSU helps to fight crime with CSI-style technology

Dec 7, 2015

Credit West Midlands Police / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Crime fighting is starting to look more and more like the show CSI, thanks to developers at Michigan State University.

The instant DNA match technology CSI's forensic investigators use isn't here quite yet, but MSU researchers have developed several other systems that aren't far off.

Last week, MSU licensed a facial recognition search system that matches images from surveillance footage with photos of potential suspects.

MSU has also licensed technology that matches up forensic sketches with mug shots.

Computer science professor Anil Jain was involved with the development of both systems. He also created an image retrieval system that lets law enforcement use photos of tattoos to identify suspects.

Jain said he and his team of researchers rely on input from the Michigan State Police forensic lab in Lansing. 

"We have expertise in designing algorithms and databases and processing images, but we don't want to work in isolation. We want to know what the real problems are and whether the solutions we are coming up with are actually useful to law enforcement and forensic agencies," Jain said. 

One problem is matching up partial fingerprints found at crime scenes to millions of fingerprints in a database.

Crime shows make it seem easy, but Jain said that's not the case when it comes to real-life forensic investigations.

"It requires lots of manual work by the forensic finger print examiners to clean up the image, mark the features of the image, do the matching, then look at the top 20 candidates retrieved from the database to see which is the top match," he said.

Jain said he thinks he and his team of researchers will have a solution within the next six months.