London: Scotland Yard has deployed squads of police officers and civilians with a special ability to remember criminals' faces, in an effort to cut crime in London.
The team of so-called "super recognisers" are being used at popular tourist sites such as Buckingham Palace and British Museum, which tends to be a hotspot for pickpockets and thieves, the 'Evening Standard' reported.
The Scotland Yard-based team are used to spot faces in crowds at events such as the Notting Hill Carnival or to patrol pickpocketing hotspots such as Oxford Street.
Acting sergeant Paul Smith, who coordinates the group, told the newspaper," Their talent is holding an image in their head and going out, sometimes months or even years later, and being able to recognise that person and say, 'That's John Smith'".
"We are deploying the group to tourist areas where pickpockets and thieves operate and they go out to spot known thieves".
At rock concerts, it was once common for dozens of mobile phones to be?stolen at each event, but the figure has now dropped to a handful or even zero.
Details of the new squad emerged as the Metropolitan Police held a three-day event for 72 "super recognisers" in an effort to identify criminals from CCTV images of 3,000 suspects.
"Super recogniser" Lee O'Brien, a 34-year-old Police Community Support Officer, said: "You look for facial features that do not change, such as people's ears or nose or mouth. I don't think I have any special ability, but I do remember names and faces. I can remember people from school who I have not seen for years".
Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said, "We are the only police force in the country doing this. By the end of three days we will have identified around 150 suspects, treble the number of identifications that we would have done in a week. Around 75 per cent of the suspects end up in court".
"This is old-fashioned policing, putting names to suspects but we are now doing it on an industrial scale," he said.