Sketching criminals: Success is ZERO

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When a crime is committed the police are quick to draw up a sketch of the criminal and plaster it on every wall. While this looks very impressive, the fact is that the success rate of nabbing a criminal on the basis of a sketch is ZERO.

The NIA had recently released the sketches of two persons who had infiltrated into India along with Mohammad Naved and Noman, the Udhampur attackers. The result- two innocents in Gujarat were nabbed only to be let off in a matter of few hours.

Sketch: Udhampur attackers

This brings us to the question as to why are sketches prepared. An officer would point out, "we try and make it as perfect as possible. Moreover, we also need to tell people like you in the media that we are doing our job. We are well aware that the success rate of nabbing a criminal on the basis of sketches is dismal."

Why do sketches go wrong?

In nine out of ten cases, the CCTV imagery is very blurry or hazy. Leave alone putting a face on the criminal, the police are not able to get even the vehicle number. This would mean that the sketches are prepared on the basis of eye witness accounts.

When the eye witness is asked to help prepare a sketch the same is prepared only on the basis of assumptions and guess work. If the criminal is wearing glasses, the sketch will never get his eye description right. If he is wearing a cap, then the forehead goes all wrong. If at all the criminal decides to commit an offence wearing sun glasses, then the description of the eyes will never ever be correct.

Sketches are prepared on human memory and nine out of ten times, the description is wrong. Sketches are based on human memory and it is basically addition and deletion based on some one else's description. Moreover, the eye witness only sees a glimpse of the criminal and hence the description is never ever right.

Sketches always prepared on basis of reasonable suspicion:

Sketches are prepared on the basis of reasonable suspicion. A face is devised into multiple component parts. An eye witness tells the police about what he has seen. He describes the chin and the data base picks up a variety of chins and attaches it to the face.

The case is similar for the other components of the face and once all the details are given the face emerges. Then they go back to the eye witness and show the face to him who on most ocassions agrees with the police. He just agrees for the sake of it since he is always trying to get out of the police station and does not want to spend more time over there since this is a time consuming process.

Instead improve CCTV quality:

Sketches can easily be ruled out in any investigation. Instead of relying on sketches the national coverage under the CCTV surviellience should be increased. The entire nation's coverage under CCTV is just 3 per cent and these cameras have limited resolution capacity.

The solution would be to increase the resolution and also bring inter connectivity among the CCTVs across the country apart from increasing the number of these cameras in all locations.

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