‘Face recognition’ CCTV software targets bike thieves

University of Leeds PhD student Dima Damen, from the University’s Faculty of Engineering, has developed a computer system that detects individuals parking their bicycles and can automatically warn security staff if it appears that someone other than the owner retrieves the bike.

“It’s difficult to monitor CCTV cameras, as operators normally have a large number of screens to watch,” said Damen. “This often results in bicycle thefts being missed, even if they are happening right in front of the camera.”

Currently at prototype stage, Damen’s system takes colour information from CCTV images when a bike is parked and stores it until the bike is retrieved. It then marries the stored information with the new image and where there are significant differences, it can raise an alert to CCTV operators. In initial tests using a camera located above a bike rack at the University of Leeds, eleven out of thirteen simulated thefts were detected.

“Without a system like this, the benefit of CCTV cameras is diminished by the difficulties of manual monitoring,” said Damen. “It’s a simple solution to an extremely widespread problem.”

Bike theft is no laughing matter – a French study found that 23 per cent of bike theft victims won’t return to cycling – but, for a pre-Christmas tickle, watch this motorcycle thief falling from a moving van to the accompaniment of the Benny Hill chase music: