Britain’s largest force solves six crimes every day by identifying suspects from CCTV, according to a senior officer.
Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said Scotland Yard has revolutionised the use of CCTV by treating it like DNA or fingerprints.
The officer, who heads the Met’s identification unit, said the number of suspects identified by his team has risen by a quarter to 2,512. The majority of suspected villains are named by officers and informants but some are passed on for public appeals.
He said: “The key to our success is that images, unidentified images, are treated as a forensic discipline. They are treated like fingerprints and DNA. When we get them we make sure that every effort is made to identify them.
“It is not the technology, it is more about managing it in a way that produces the best results. That is why we have got police forces from around the world coming to see how we do it. We had officers from Sweden and Holland over in the last week.”
The Met identified 2,512 wanted people in 2010, compared with 1,970 the previous year. The figures included four suspected murderers, 23 rapists and sex attackers and five wanted gunmen.
Among them was Andrew Hawkes, who was jailed for 40 months in October for attacking and racially abusing a man in Tower Bridge Road. He was identified from a CCTV still put on a wanted board.
Mr Neville said the Hawkes case illustrated the kind of success they have enjoyed but he said trained officers are increasingly needed to access and store CCTV because much of it is now stored digitally.
He said police must help challenge public scepticism about the increase in the number of CCTV cameras and the “surveillance state”.
He added: “It is also about public confidence because there is a lot of bad publicity about CCTV and traffic enforcement. We put a lot of images on posters and in the media, including Crimewatch, so the public can see we are using them against criminals. Most of our identifications come from officers or criminal informants but we put a lot of stuff out in public to get something around the public confidence issue.”