Is it time to retire the police sketch?


Do you recognize this face? Most people probably
do, but try describing it from memory. Kind of like a taller head. Does he have brown
eyes? They’re not exactly deep-set. Green eyes? Bland features. I don’t remember like any
dimples or moles. Ben Affleck’s nose… Not flat but not super pointy either.
So this is the challenge faced by police sketch artists. They interview
victims and witnesses about a criminal’s face and their drawings go out to the public
with the goal of soliciting tips. Take a good look at that sketch. If that man looks familiar… If you have any information you’re asked to call metro crimestoppers. we wanted to find out how accurate these sketches
are, and if there might be a better way to put those memories onto paper. There really isn’t any good data on how
often a sketch helps police catch a criminal on the loose.
but by the looks of it, more often than not, they don’t achieve a very strong likeness.
There are certainly some notable exceptions, like this sketch made of Oklahoma City bomber
Timothy McVeigh. or cases where the suspect has a really distinctive
look. but mostly they’re kind of a shot in the dark.
In academic experiments, sketches were identified only around 8% of the time
Now that’s arguably better than nothing, but there are also risks to putting out a bad
sketch. This man served 12 years in prison for a crime
he didn’t commit after someone said he looked like the sketch of a rapist and then the victim
wrongly chose him from a lineup. Here’s why this is so hard. Psychologists
have long known that we process human faces holistically, rather than on the level of
individual features. Here’s an example: take a look at this photo. Now which of these is the mouth you saw? Generally people are worse at getting this right than
if the mouths are shown in the original facial context. Or try this – are the top halves of these faces the same? How about these? We’re generally
quicker to answer when the halves are misaligned than when they’re aligned. That suggests that it’s difficult for us to focus on just one part of a face. The rest of the face tends to interfere.
So our brains aren’t well suited to describe individual facial features but that’s typically
what victims and witnesses are asked to do. And that’s been the fatal flaw for the many
attempts to improve upon the hand-drawn sketch, dating back to the 1960s when police tried
using these mechanical kits of interchangeable features. Picture puzzles to put mugs in the jug. Then came computer programs that were slightly more customizable but still relied on feature-by-feature
reconstruction. In laboratory tests, these systems performed
pretty badly. But the latest generation of computer programs
seems more promising. This system was developed by psychologists at the University of Winchester
in the UK. It makes use of the fact that we’re good and recognizing faces but bad at recalling
their parts. After the victim or witness specifies the
gender, age and race, it presents randomly generated faces instead of individual features.
and all the person has to do is choose a few faces that most resemble the suspect. Using
what’s called a genetic algorithm, those faces then get bred together and a new set
of faces appears. They can also adjust holistic variables, like attractiveness.
When they tested this program in the lab, participants were able to generate these celebrity
faces from memory. And when they tried it in 5 real police departments,
it led to arrests around 40% of the time on average and up to 60% in the most recent trial.
For example, this composite helped police catch a man who raped two women in Manchester.
Someone called in after they recognized the image as a local fast food worker.
Nearly half of violent crimes go unsolved in the US. that includes around 60% of forcible
rapes. Sketches are easy to poke fun at but they’ve been one of the only tools detectives
have in the absence of other evidence. So it’s good news that in the future, they
might be slightly less of an art and more of a science.

100 comments

  • Allo

    The most shocking thing of this video is the sentence of only 8 years for raping two women…

    Reply
  • Kitty0101

    Why don’t these polices become artist?

    Reply
  • Raven Falcon

    Okay did anybody else not have a problem with the examples?

    Reply
  • king of dot

    was the man $noop Dog???

    Reply
  • Salty iguana44

    I don't know but this is kind of…..sketchy

    Reply
  • Heroic •

    3:54 looks at this dude on the right of the black male with the sunglasses MAN HE LOOKS LIKE THAT HE HAS AN ASS FOR A FACE

    Reply
  • 1,000 with no Video?

    If I have to go to jail for 12 years. I’m gonna sue them

    Reply
  • No-AAAH! !

    I think we should use the Mii creator

    Reply
  • xX Anime Xx

    Well y’all can’t hire college dropouts….

    Reply
  • Fahad Naushad

    old school is fading away. So sad to hear it TBH

    Reply
  • Hayln Anna

    As an artist, I can certainly agree that it's a more complex puzzle to simply draw any individual from straight out of memory. This is why we use physical models and pictures

    Reply
  • JoeyBlendsWell

    0:28 DATS KAYNE

    Reply
  • BurningMarmite

    Non politicised videos from Vox are actually kind of good

    Reply
  • min.creamè

    “OH my GERD!!! THES R BAD ARTISTS XD !!!” like yay good for you for pointing that out, youre so talented wow you can can draw better than them wow yay have a award

    Reply
  • JCPenny boi

    is this the new update for the mii channel?

    Reply
  • Art account IT

    They're actually pretty damn accurate. A good sketch artist will have a portfolio of features of the eyes, lips, ears, etc That the witness can choose from

    Lois Gibson is a great police sketcher

    Reply
  • Inkk Vibe

    Solution: if the victim drew the criminal.

    Reply
  • Dan M

    Whoa.. The title should have been about that new tech that's amazing

    Reply
  • Walt Badem

    cool stuff

    Reply
  • Joshua Mallari

    1:03 Dude looks like Pixis from Attack on Titan

    Reply
  • Billy Stink

    Sketches make funnier memes

    Reply
  • HorrorSweetArts

    Any actual artists on your team?

    Reply
  • Ultra Chicken

    3:52 wtf is that widow's peak LMAO

    Reply
  • Pati_ Kathi

    My idea is that they use sims as their program xS

    Reply
  • Dylan Wicklund

    I've been actually worried 1 day I'll be mistaken for one of these sketches and wrongly inprisoned lol glad to see they'e getting better

    Reply
  • Aisah

    3:25 romania

    Reply
  • Raw and Uncensored

    Thise sketches should have never been used to begin with. I never understood the concept honestly. Like they said in the video, recalling specific features is not altge human mind's speciality.

    Reply
  • Anthony Pasquariello

    Cops need to get with the data

    Reply
  • Not an Instrument

    Did anyone else know it was George Clooney?

    Reply
  • BrokeBot

    They have Skyrim level sketches now?

    Reply
  • plumens

    NoOoOoOoOooOoOoOOooOooo

    Reply
  • C Brown

    In that very 1st pic they show of the white kid there were 2 people involved and that sketch was of the driver of the car that the woman had been involved in an incident of road rage with. Vox seems to have left that out or didn't research it.

    Reply
  • Wass dat

    Now imagine sketch artist in asia 😂😂😂😭👌

    Reply
  • Wass dat

    The guy they tried to describe just say its ben affleck

    Reply
  • Petty Pancakes

    Imagine if they hired a animation memer. Every sketch will be out of proportion/ furries lmao.

    Reply
  • Rebeca Sandstrom

    Why don’t u just use Create a Sim?

    Oh they’d probably be on it for eight hours trying to tweak the perfect nose

    Reply
  • Zoey Coen

    I am a certified forensic sketch artist. When I was getting certified at Northwestern in Evanston I ran into a Unibomber victim who was staying at the Hilton like me. She was really pissed off about that Unibomber sketch because it took 20 years to catch him and the sketch didn't help. Even if a sketch only works 8% of the time it's still worth it.

    Reply
  • Emma Brown

    Some are good. Others are really bad.

    Reply
  • Jessica

    3:56 top row third person

    cACkLinG

    Reply
  • Giant Dad

    No

    Reply
  • Vitamin Memes

    if you do were just gonna have more starving artists.

    Reply
  • XxTrigerHappyxX

    first 15 sec describe this man ok ITS BAT MAN BAT MAN KILLED THE KIDS OK?

    Reply
  • Seth Leoric

    Sooo interconnectedness

    Reply
  • vladnos

    "Brad Pitt" looks more like Roddy Piper.

    Reply
  • zejaba

    0:58 looks like teen Marshall

    Reply
  • Alpha Rivelino

    2:55 "after the witness specifies the gender, age and race" – I thought race didn't exist, you confused liberals 🙂

    Reply
  • Alpha Rivelino

    3:30 "This composite helped police catch a man who raped two women in Manchester. Someone called after they recognized the image as a local fast-food worker." — Yeah, a "local" haha.

    Reply
  • Hello There

    Lol is that jake paul at the top left corner?😂

    Reply
  • Hillary Sanderson

    All you are judging is the computer program…you need to reword your video…..people who take the job seriously are fantastic

    Reply
  • L N

    This is why it’s preferable to focus on individuals each feature instead of looking at their face as a whole. Obviously not everyone cares to judge one’s eyes, nose, lips, skin color, and face, but I usually do it nowadays so it’s much easier to describe someone.

    Reply
  • Amethyst Crystal Gem

    Some of these just look like self portraits a 3rd grader was forced to make in art class

    Reply
  • ZeroHBR

    2:08 upper part looks like George Clooney, bottom part looks like Harrison Ford

    Reply
  • 𝓚𝓪𝓲𝓮

    It’s even worse when you execute the wrong suspect.

    Reply
  • Grace Reitz

    Waste of an art some of those are.

    Reply
  • MustFix

    Sounds like something a criminal would say.

    Reply
  • FactDec

    How can i get that softwere???

    Reply
  • Jim Bertido

    The irony of the guy saying Ben had a taller head has a taller head.

    Reply
  • Philip 550c

    This video is sexist. It was all men. Are you saying that women can't commit crime and get away?

    Reply
  • Obscure Fragments

    The face split thing doesn't change anything to me. Is it supposed to be hard?

    Reply
  • Alexander Schultz

    How is Eastern European different from White?

    Reply
  • Battle Frame Studios

    There goes my dream job. Thanks, vox.

    Reply
  • Bobitza aka NoobulPlictisit

    3:30 România!!!

    Reply
  • Fire Nation Files

    Nice artists

    Reply
  • Alena Argonza

    We need a sherlock.

    Reply
  • Purpled

    0:36 was that jeff dahmer

    Reply
  • corvs

    0:31 tell me someone else noticed Freddie Mercury.

    Reply
  • Riki Kosasih

    Artist be like : reeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Seán Michelangelo Charles Egan

    3:55 Dude one row from the top just left of the middle looks like he's one half of an apple that's come alive

    Reply
  • Molly McTigue

    My favorite thing to do is to look up police sketches of famous people and try to guess who they are

    Reply
  • Yaqoub Al-ayyaf

    No it's not

    Reply
  • Sam Valladares

    This new computer-generated solution is awesome!

    Reply
  • Matthew Kendall

    1:22 Hang on, a man went to prison for 12 years with zero proof??? Wtf.

    Reply
  • elijahpepe

    👏 Forehead 👏

    Reply
  • julia

    they need to hire better artists tho.

    Reply
  • ink

    But then again, even if they didn’t work most of the time, we shouldn’t just forget about them. They’re the most of what polices can get back then, so it is kind of a part of history.
    Even with better technologies coming out to identify criminal. I still think that they’re worth remembering.
    Idk just my opinion ^ ^;

    Reply
  • Thirsty Leaf

    Simple: just ask people to make who they saw on the sims 4 "create a sim"

    Reply
  • Zero Effort

    I know most of them are bad, either cause the artist is bad or the description is bad, but theres a decent percentage that are useful, probably more often than some other forensic tools, so I think they're still warranted

    Reply
  • aqua marie

    0:54 was that sketch captain america in disguise

    Reply
  • Stella

    I want to be a forensic sketch artist

    Reply
  • Purple Potatoes

    3:52 top row 4th person

    Reply
  • THE Berrby

    … I'm glad that it improved upon itself.

    Reply
  • Dylan Wicklund

    Which one of these is the mouth you seen? Uhm idk I was looking at her forehead and had to pause and guess lol I got it right

    Reply
  • Mr. Peanutbutter

    All these beta males.

    Reply
  • MARILYN VOS SAVANT

    Does anyone know where I can find the old kits with the different eyes, lips, etc? All the ones I can find are for men only.

    Reply
  • Yo

    2:40 Psychologists and and software engineers are already fixing the problem, so our whole video is pretty much pointless.

    Thanks for another worthless video Vox.

    Reply
  • T Pain

    Police sketcher are paid actors

    Reply
  • ROSQUE WMA

    1:05 wut.

    Reply
  • Athan Yeet

    Me laughing looking at the Maggiore murder sketch compared to Joseph James DeAngelo

    Reply
  • Heated Heat

    Y’all remember the spongebob episode where Patrick gets all scared when the police show a spongebob sketch ? Lol

    Reply
  • joenoseph

    witness account is not a valid way to solve crimes

    Reply
  • jupiter is a bean

    I frigging love voxx

    Reply
  • Mukoro Oweh, Jr.

    what if they draw a sketch that resembles the wrong person it common sense why go by it smh

    Reply
  • Skylinestar Skyfer

    Usually I would think twice before saying leave it to tech, but after hearing innocent people are being put in jail and the art is inaccurate I would say this is a necessary change.

    Reply
  • Georgia C

    This video has popped up in my recommended at least 3 times over the past 4 years and I still don’t remember the answer to the title

    Reply
  • Soldier Dirt

    2:41
    Nobody

    Me: why my mii character is there ?!??

    Reply
  • yee tus

    so u can just randomly pick ur ideal boyfriend and televised it

    Reply
  • Jaka Prawira

    When character profiling actually helped police guessing criminal’s face,

    You thank Skyrim and Mass Effect.

    Reply
  • Gading Surdawi

    police sketcher are like artist but forgot to learn abt face construction

    Reply
  • Your mom gay 696969

    Période 100

    Reply
  • EggNuggs

    3:00 strange resemblance to the mii creator menu.

    Reply

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