A CRIME-FIGHTING system which tracks down criminals at the touch of a button has been launched in West Yorkshire.
The ground-breaking Automatic Facial Recognition system digitally matches CCTV pictures with photos of known criminals.
West Yorkshire Police's high-tech Scientific Support Unit is the first force in Britain - and thought to be the first in the world - to use the cutting-edge tool which cost less than £100,000.
The new system means images of unidentified suspects, mainly taken from CCTVs at or near a crime scene, can be checked against the force's database of tens of thousands of "mugshot" photos in a matter of minutes. This was previously impossible.
High-tech computer software checks a number of points on the image, such as the distance between the eyes.
It also looks for any matches against existing prisoner pictures.
Possible matches can then be whittled down visually by experienced operators to produce the most likely suspect.
The area where a known offender lives and the type of offences they have been convicted of are among the criteria that can be used to narrow down the search.
Det Supt Mick Fickling, head of scientific support, said that before this system was set up CCTV images of suspects could only be circulated within the force or used in the media or on posters.
"Now we can narrow down likely suspects in a very short time."
He added: "About 70% of burglars live within a two-mile radius of the properties they target and the AFR system can include this sort of criteria in the search.
"Instead of having to wade through the whole encyclopaedia, you are now being taken to the chapter, or even the page, you need very quickly."
Other forensic results, such as fingerprints, DNA or footprints, can be used with the AFR, so the investigating officer can go and arrest the identified suspect.
The system has already led to the arrests of suspected rapists, robbers, drug dealers and other criminals in a variety of cases.
Some 70% of images searched have produced useful intelligence worth looking at further.
The AFR system is an addition to the newly-introduced Electronic Witness Album Builder, which was developed in-house by the force's Scientific Support Unit.
This allows victims and witnesses to look through mugshot photos quickly and simply in police stations across the county.