Gordon’s Wine Bar, established in 1890 and thought to be London’s oldest, is a popular venue for office workers and tourists wanting to experience a taste of Dickensian London. Owner Simon Gordon noticed that petty theft was becoming a growing problem in the bar’s atmospheric, candle-lit cellars.
He saw firsthand the huge upset the loss of house keys, phones, season tickets and personal possessions can cause. At the same time, Simon Gordon realised that if such thefts were repeatedly shared on social media, it would eventually damage the wine bar’s reputation and deter visitors. He explains, “I was frustrated that my customers were frequently the victims of petty crime and keen to support the police who found it difficult to solve these types of incidents.” The entrepreneur recognised he needed to find a solution and from this very real business need the idea of Facewatch was born.
Facewatch is a secure online crime reporting system that enables businesses of all types, the police and public to share images within groups and submit digital evidence files to the police to help solve low-level crimes. Facewatch’s cloud-based software enables businesses to upload CCTV camera footage and witness reports directly to the police from any internetenabled device, and use optional facial recognition software to identify culprits.
As Nick Ross of Crimewatch notes, “Facewatch is hardly rocket science: it’s basically a web-based crime report form. Yet it’s so clever it represents a big advance in policing, in recruiting public involvement, and in crime deterrence, detection and prevention.”
Facewatch faced considerable hurdles in developing its business’s relationship with the police, not least of which were technology and security. Although the Facewatch application currently operates at the already high IL2 (or ‘Official’)/ISO 27001 security level, they will later require operation at the higher IL3 (‘Official Sensitive’) accreditation as the police wish to add more sensitive data to the system. The other key element for Facewatch is the ability to ensure that their system is fully scaleable to handle increased demand at a moment’s notice without any loss of service.
With this level of security and flexibility required, and the aspiration to become a truly global brand, Facewatch needed a partner they could rely on to provide the appropriate support anywhere in the world. Facewatch turned to Sungard Availability Services to become their strategic partner of choice.
Facewatch now works with a number of large police forces to simplify crime reporting, and has also provided a mobile app for the Met Police and others that enables the public to identify images of suspects by postcode. It is dramatically reducing the time taken to solve crimes, with Facewatch customer West Midlands Police estimating the system has cut the time taken to investigate a case from between three days to over two weeks to around ten minutes, as it removes the legwork in gathering evidence and reduces the paperwork involved. Facewatch has met with great acclaim from on high with Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, describing it as, “Excellent technology for fighting crime, reducing bureaucracy and saving time.”
With customers ranging from retailers, restaurants and banks to theme parks and museums, the system is fast gaining critical mass. Simon Gordon says, “As we are using a cloud-based platform from Sungard AS we can scale up our solution across multiple police forces, which allows greater access and sharing of our applications and information across multiple forces, as well as more regular, free updates to the software for the police to use.”
Simon and his team with Hampshire Police have now developed and launched an online crime reporting portal, which will be made available to all UK police forces. Other plans include a Facewatch Communicator app to enable Facewatch group members to message each other with text and images as well as send SOS messages.
Not being one to rest on his laurels, Simon Gordon has ambitious plans for the future of Facewatch. “The UK is just a pilot for us. Once we’ve proved the system here, with Sungard AS’s global reach we can transfer what we’re doing worldwide.”
As for the problem at Gordon’s Wine Bar which started it all, thanks to Facewatch its crime rate has plummeted from up to 12 incidents a month to “virtually nothing.” Looking back on his journey so far, Simon Gordon comments, “What seemed like quite a daunting task has turned into an exciting business opportunity for us because we have found the right partner and are benefitting from their consultancy and support.”