Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Chinese turn to facial recognition to hit back at robbers - System able to make match even if crook wearing a mask

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2020 | 12:22 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

Western Bureau:

With a number of their businesses being hit in multimillion-dollar heists in recent years, sometimes with deadly outcomes, members of the Chinese community in Montego Bay, St James, have turned to technology, including facial-recognition software, to boost surveillance.

Following the latest robbery last week in which a security guard was shot dead at a Chinese-owned supermarket, the Chinese have restated that they are fully behind efforts to make the parish safe through the use of technology, primarily high-tech CCTV, which has the capacity to identify even mask-wearing robbers.

“We have that technology in place ... . It’s face-recognition technology,” explained a spokesman, who added that they were pumping resources into acquiring more cameras.

“Even if you have on a mask, the system can still 85 per cent match the face,” he added.

“We just need 100 more of those cameras on the intersection and streets, an administrative monitor room, and a patrol police team. Once we see them (the robbers) on the street system, it sets off an alarm and the police can come right away,” added the businessman, who asked not to be identified.

The police have repeatedly expressed concerns about the apparent nonchalance of the Chinese, who have a strong presence in the business community, in keeping large sums of cash at their business establishments and failing to invest in high-quality security systems and personnel.

“They tend to be quite cavalier in the handling and movement of large amounts of cash,” a St James-based security expert told The Gleaner. “In one robbery last year, robbers made off with over $5 million. That sort of money should be in the bank, not at a poorly secured business place.”

With the Chinese, over recent years, shedding their clannish image and becoming integral members of the social fabric of St James, there is much sympathy for them as they continue to suffer at the hands of criminals.

“We are deeply disappointed about what has been happening,” said a source close to the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We are against robbery in general, but we are particularly concerned about the Chinese because they are being targeted more.”

Another Chinese business operator, who expressed solidarity with his business colleague, closed his business for three days as a mark of respect for the security guard who was killed. He said that the frequent attacks were frustrating.

“Over the past 18 months, at least 13 prominent Chinese-owned businesses have been robbed, resulting in millions of dollars being stolen,” said the business operator, who believes that crooks made off with well over $60 million, with three business operators killed in the robberies.