Police suspects face Viper parade

Instead of physically lining up people for an identity parade, UK police have started using a video conferencing system called Viper

Police and politicians have been heralding the success of a system which allows identification parades to be carried out using electronic video feeds rather than with traditional 'line ups'.

Viper -- which stands for Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording -- is housed in a datacentre in Wakefield and uses IP virtual private network (VPN) technology from Cable & Wireless.

The Viper Bureau, which in total has cost £7.6m, was officially opened today by home secretary David Blunkett.

After trialling the system for six months last year, West Yorkshire Police saw a decrease in the number of cancelled line ups and a 26 percent fall in the number of snatch thefts and robberies.

Other benefits include the lower cost of virtual parades, which can be run while a suspect is still in custody rather than on bail, and not having to physically place victims near to their attackers (albeit behind one-way mirrors).

The C&W IP VPN takes 15-20 minutes to download IDs to individual police stations, where they can even be burnt onto DVDs to be shown to victims at home or in hospital.

Live video links to suspects on remand in prison are now taking place.

West Yorkshire chief constable Colin Cramphorn said in a statement: "With the database growing all the time, Viper is going from strength to strength. Even the most distinctive suspects who it would be almost impossible to find look-alikes for on a live parade can be run via Viper."

Over 14,000 IDs are now in the Viper system, which is initially being used by 70 police stations across 13 UK police forces. A further £2.8m has been committed to the initiative for 2003/4, for example allowing 24 hour parades -- a far cry from the 10 weeks they could take to arrange previously.

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