A Nigerian, Samson Adesina, was one of the looters remanded in prison custody yesterday over their roles in the riots, which have seized British major cities for days. The 23-year-old Adesina, an electrical engineering student, was caught by one of the 8,000 surveillance cameras strategically placed in London streets, stealing a flatscreen television at the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre during the riots.
Detectives used the cameras to trace him to his house and he was arrested.
The Tower Bridge Magistrate’s Court ordered that he be remanded in prison for a week for his action. With the development, he will miss his final examinations.
Adesina was not the only one traced through the cameras, arrested and arraigned. www.mannastores.com
British police, trying to catch instigators of the London riots, fought back with technology. They posted alleged rioters’ photos on their Flickr Photostream.
It was not hard to get the pictures with the 8,000 surveillance cameras watching the streets.
People in the United Kingdom are believed to be the most watched in the world.
By one estimate, there is one Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera for every 14 citizens. “Picture by picture, these criminals are being identified and arrested, and we will not let any phony concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of these pictures and arrest of these individuals,” Prime Minister David Cameron said of the alleged perpetrators.
Police invited the public to call if they recognised suspected rioters whose images were posted on commercial and government websites. Captions on them were cryptic: “A female wearing a vest top who has just carried items from Richer Sounds,” or, “A male with grey hooded top and black body warmer about to enter Cash Plus in Thornton Heath.”
Asking for public help was just one extra step. Face-recognition technology is now inexpensive and widespread, and police could easily use it to match alleged looters’ pictures with party photos they might have posted on Facebook or Tumblr.com.
“A lot of these youths are wearing scarves to hide their faces but we’re not just reliant on that,” Martin Lazell, chairman of the Public CCTV Managers Association in London, said to the Christian Science Monitor. “We can identify people on how they walk, their height, their clothes, shoes, all manner of things.”
The possibility of mass unmasking has divided Britons and Americans alike. Many people, angered at the violence, are anxious to see the perpetrators caught. Others say the technology is only as good as the people who use it, and innocent people could be caught in legal nightmares.
On the website Hacker News, people were invited: “Help work out how to do facial recognition on the police photos.”
A user replied: “Please, do not do this. It compromises people’s right to privacy and will artificially incriminate people who may not be participating but are bystanding or trying to get home.”
Such arguments will rage as London police pursue one of the largest investigations in recent years.
“If there was ever a need for an evidence-based approach to a social problem, this is it,” said Simon Davies, head of a London group called Privacy International. “When Parliament meets to discuss the riots, it should demand evidence to back up any claim of blame, and it should institute a rigorous process to ensure that any response is justified, lawful, viable and fair.”
Meanwhile, Australian authorities have appointed a taskforce to investigate allegations that Nigerian scammers have sold a family’s Ballajura home without their knowledge, over a year after criminals sold a man’s house without his knowledge.
The couple had been working in Nigeria but when they recently returned to Perth, they discovered their home had been sold.
According to a statement released yesterday, the real estate agent involved told investigators that he received a phone call in February from a man claiming to be the owner, inquiring about the property.
Shortly after, the agent received an urgent request to sell the property as funds were needed for a business investment, later revealed to be a supposed petro-chemical project.
A joint taskforce, involving investigators from Consumer Protection, WA Police Major Fraud Squad and representatives of Landgate, has been set up to investigate the alleged real estate scam.
Detective Senior Sergeant Pete Davies of the Major Fraud Squad said it appears the scam originated in Nigeria and there are some similarities to the fraudulent sale of a Karrinyup property in June last year.
Wembley Downs retiree Roger Mildenhall was living in South Africa when he discovered scammers had sold his duplex for $485,000 and that his home on Hale Road was close to settlement.
“We are in the early stages of a full criminal investigation and examining computer, phone records and bank accounts,” Det Sen Sgt Davies said.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Anne Driscoll, has urged real estate and settlement agents to apply stringent measures to confirm the identity of absentee owners who wish to sell their properties remotely and ensure the person they are dealing with is the legitimate owner.
“It is essential that agents have rigorous procedures and a clear protocol in place to certify that the appropriate person has been identified as the real owner before providing the service,” Ms Driscoll said.
“It is critical that when an owner changes their contact details, that real estate agents send a confirmation to both the owner’s original and new addresses, using all forms of communication.
“This will confirm that the new details are correct and may alert the owner to any improper activity that is occurring.
“The general principles of ‘know your customer’ should apply at all times and the standard 100-point identity check used by banks and other institutions should be used as a minimum when dealing with remote clients.
“While identity fraud is always a risk, these are important prevention measures.”
Ms Driscoll said signatures should also be carefully checked against original signatures on file and any major differences should prompt further investigation.
“If agents have any doubts about the authenticity of a document, they should seek to have it independently verified by the issuing authority,” she said.
Landgate’s Registrar of Titles Bruce Roberts said he fully supported the increased measures to refine and improve identity verification by all organisations involved in the selling and transfer of property.
Consumer Protection is advising agents to make further inquiries regarding identity and seek additional evidence whenever there has been a recent change in address or other contact details. Signatures and initials should also be carefully checked as they may not closely match originals on file. Agents are advised to make further inquiries if the transaction originates from overseas, especially from countries known for scams, such as Nigeria or if there is a request for funds to be sent to a different bank account normally used by the client, or to offshore accounts including China.
It also advises agents to make additional inquiries if the sale is urgent as a result of funds being required for investment in a business venture, new email addresses being used are generic such as hotmail, yahoo or gmail.
“Ultimately, these steps are no guarantee against fraudulent conduct, but they will minimise the chances of these types of scams being successfully carried out,” Ms Driscoll said.
“Agents and lenders are reminded they are obliged to provide their services to existing clients with due care and skill under the Australian Consumer Law, for which a range of remedies are available.
“The Real Estate and Business Agents’ Code of Conduct also makes disciplinary action available to agents who fail to provide services with due care and skill.”
Ms Driscoll said there was no current finding the agents involved in this latest transaction had failed to act with due care and skill, but it serves as a timely reminder of agents’ obligations.
“Since the last successful scam was reported, an extensive Government and industry education campaign was conducted with the real estate and settlement agents, giving advice on how scams can be avoided,” she said.
“There is a need for us to continue this campaign and to implement identification verification procedures as part of standard industry practice. Consumer Protection, Landgate, REIWA and AIC will be working intensely and cooperatively in coming weeks to define additional practices in the industry that need to be put into action to minimise the likelihood of property fraud in the future.
“Consumer Protection will be communicating with all agents immediately, providing as much information and advice as possible to enable them to more readily detect these attempts at fraud.”
Shadow Planning Minister, John Hyde, said the allegations “were a mirror image” of the Karrinyup scam and the Government had clearly failed to close loopholes to prevent it.
“The Barnett Government has increased many Landgate fees for documents by over 35 per cent and yet, they haven’t ensured that our document systems are fraud-proofed,” he said.