Nightclub goes for face-scanning security

A MELBOURNE nightclub has installed facial recognition software to stamp out thugs and known troublemakers.

Chasers nightclub in Chapel St, which already has metal detectors to screen patrons for weapons, believes the system is one of the first in the world for nightclubs.

Management now wants the technology to be adopted in other nightclubs to create a security network.

Assaults and violence around nightspots is increasing.

Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the technology could help the fight against violence, and should be looked at for venues on their last warnings.

The face-recognition technology was installed at Chasers on the weekend.

It was bought after a chemical bomb was let off in the venue last year.

On entering, patrons' faces are scanned by a camera and the image and driver's licence details are stored on computer for 28 days.

If someone banned from the club tries to enter, their face comes up with a red mark, alerting security to a problem.

Head of security Andrew McDonald said the system would work best in unison with other clubs, so that violent thugs can't move between clubs.

"There are fights in nightclubs, and we want to stop these troublemakers coming in," Mr McDonald said.

About 20 people have been banned from the club in the past three years for weapons offences, fighting, or disrespecting security staff.

Chasers owner Martha Tsamis, who also owns Inflation on King St, said the $16,000 system was bought after an ammonia cocktail bomb, the effect of which is similar to mace, was set off last year.

"The only way we could track people who do such things is with this, if they don't have a criminal record," Ms Tsamis said.

Ms Tsamis said the hi-tech security put her mind at ease, and people who did not want their faces scanned could go elsewhere.

"The reports we have had, especially from females, is they are very happy because they know our system is there to protect people," she said.

Liberty Victoria president Michael Pearce said nightclubs would benefit from using facial recognition technology, but there were concerns about misuse of information.

Mr Pearce said one way to protect against misuse would be to create new right-to-privacy legislation. "At the moment there's always the danger someone can get hold of images and post them on the internet," Mr Pearce said.

Ms Tsamis said Chasers' information would be stored on a secure database, to which only she and Mr McDonald would have access.

In the event of an incident at the club, police would be given access to data as part of their investigations.

The Herald Sun last month revealed that police want hi-tech ID scanning equipment installed at all late-night city venues.

A submission by Victoria Police to the Government will ask for scanners to be compulsory for "high-risk" nightclubs.

A spokesman for Director of Liquor Licensing Sue Maclellan said measures to reduce alcohol-related violence were encouraged, but the key was in ensuring that patrons did not get drunk.,21985,25373233-2862,00.html

Video: Facial recognition is here  

0homefly.gif (8947 bytes)