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Stafford duo helping police fight organised crime with their new AI technology

By Heather Large | Stafford | News | Published:

It’s become a new weapon in the fight against crime helping police to solve cases and bring perpetrators to justice.

The duo behind the firm, which has worked with Staffordshire Police are Dr Liam Owens and Prof Claude Chibelushi, both of Stafford

Stafford-based Semantics 21 (S21) has developed artificial intelligence technology purely for digital forensics which is being used by police across the globe.

It’s being deployed in cases of child exploitation, counter terrorism, human trafficking and other serious organised crime.

The technology is able to sift through evidence with the help of automated searches based on visual similarity or recognition of faces, age, emotion, nudity and a variety of object types.

It can work through millions of images in minutes to jigsaw together the smallest details to identify victims and perpetrators.

As well as helping rescue more victims, the AI is also helping to safeguard the mental health of many investigators who would normally have to examine horrific images to catch perpetrators and stop criminal gangs.

The duo behind the firm, which has worked with forces in the UK including Staffordshire Police as well as those in Canada and the US are Dr Liam Owens and Prof Claude Chibelushi, who are both from Stafford.

Although they can’t reveal specific details of cases or forces, for legal reasons, the pair know their AI is responsible for helping one force solve more cases and find more victims in 12 months than the previous three years and for assisting another in reducing a case backlog of several months down to zero.

It was while studying for a Ph.D. in digital forensics at Staffordshire University, under Claude, that Liam spent time working with investigators, where he quickly realised how a specifically designed digital forensics AI system could be a major boost to the police’s crime-fighting armoury.

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Liam, 32, who usually spends his time travelling the globe to support and train forces in its unique AI, said: “During my university studies, and while working with some incredible investigators back in 2009, I saw the overwhelming backlog they were facing, and I was shocked by the complete lack of clever tech available to assist investigators, including a lack of AI for victim ID.

“Like in many industries it sometimes takes an outsider with insider knowledge to patch the issue and that is what we developed this tech specifically for.

“Claude exposed me to leading edge research available now, and the future of

the AI marketplace. But I saw first-hand that forces didn’t have the opportunity to invest in tools harnessing the best computing AI had to offer to assist them there and then. We wanted to bring forces into the 21st century by bridging the semantic gap between humans and computer, hence the name Semantics 21.

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“So, we developed our own unique AI and innovative products specifically designed for digital forensics.

“Our long term goal is for people to see us as global leader in digital forensics and AI across the world, we are pioneering the research and putting it out when tried, tested and proven ready to go.”

Father-of-three Claude left lecturing at the university to run the company, which received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the Innovation category, last year, full-time with Liam.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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