The Mayor of Croydon has shown support for the Met Police’s facial recognition operations, saying "if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear".

Croydon’s Mayor Jason Perry has shown support for the Met Police’s continued use of facial recognition operations in the borough, despite the controversy surrounding their presence in high streets.

Mr Perry praised the operation’s efficiency in leading to data-driven arrests.

He also said this success shows "local police are taking policing the town centre seriously".

Your Local Guardian: Jason PerryJason Perry

He added: “If you’re a law-abiding citizen going about your day, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The reality is that the system is picking up people on wanted lists.

“I’m always of the view that if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear, so for most of us it doesn’t mean anything. What it does mean is that people who are breaking and evading the law are being taken off the streets.

“We are also doing a lot of partnership work with the met about how to improve the town centre. It should all lead to safer streets, which is what I think all of us want.”

A recent deployment of the scheme on North End last Friday led to 11 arrests made by officers.

These included:

A man wanted for two counts of rape

A man wanted for harassment

A man wanted for domestic assault

A man wanted for voyeurism

When the Met Police first rolled out these operations earlier this year, they were met with vocal challenges from the public and campaign groups alike.

The criticisms mainly centered around the operation’s potential to infringe on the privacy of innocent individuals and the continued use of stop-and-search tactics.

Zoë Garbett, the Green Party’s candidate for Mayor of London, shares these sentiments and has called for a review of the operations.

Your Local Guardian: Zoe GarbettZoe Garbett

She told the LDRS: “The rapid expansion of facial recognition is a real concern for many people.

"We know that some communities are over-policed and under-protected and there are still a lot of questions that need answering to make sure this technology isn’t disproportionately used against them by the Met.

“Civil liberty groups including Big Brother Watch, Liberty and Amnesty International have all raised real concerns about the technology and the loss of privacy. No other democracy in the world is rolling out the technology as quickly as the UK. We must ask why.

“The level of trust the public have in The Met couldn’t really be any lower and this is really not how you rebuild that.

"As Mayor of London, I would pause and review the use of this technology to ensure proportionate use and full transparency.”

Despite these concerns and the initial pushback, the increased visibility of these operations and the publication of arrest reports by the Met Police has encouraged some support from the wider Croydon community. 

Antony King, Chair of the My Ends Project, is one such supporter.

He believes that by using the technology available to them, the Met Police could overcome some of the challenges that drew them apart from communities in the past.

Your Local Guardian: Anthony KingAnthony King

He told the LDRS: “There were initial fears that it was operating like a Big Brother system.

"However, people are now coming around to it and celebrating the great work that has happened. It’s swings and roundabouts.

“Initially it was a great shock to everybody. It was met with challenges and controversy but after the Met explained it to the community there were around 100 people that began celebrating the positivity. It caught rapists, pedophiles, and violent and aggressive people.

“One arrest was of an individual that was sought after for serious sexual offenses he evaded police for years. The facial recognition was able to identify him so he could be arrested and taken off the streets.

“To be fair to the police, they have been speaking to the community a lot. They have been to three meetings in the community and in all those meetings it has eventually.”

“There are still a lot of organisations they need to go to, to speak about it and they need to remain visible in the community.

“What it has done is removed the prejudice from stop and search. It’s not about saying you just fit this profile, instead it’s allowed the technology to say we are looking for this individual.”

King believes the spread of facial recognition operations is inevitable, given that their usage will be driven solely by crime data.

In particular, he suggested the operations could soon be rolled out in South Norwood, Thornton Heath, and New Addington.

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for the Met said: “The Met is using Live Facial Recognition technology to respond to community concerns about crime in their area. 

“Live Facial Recognition technology identifies wanted people and ensures that people are complying with their bail conditions, court orders and other restrictions. As part of our deployment officers from the Met discussed Live Facial Recognition technology with community groups."

Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain who leads policing in Croydon said: “It’s a vital tool for us to use to keep our communities safe.

"I care about trust and confidence in the community which is why we invited community members to see it in operation, ask questions about its use and the impact it is having in terms of taking criminals off our streets."