Monash and AFP launch AI research centre

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Monash University and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will experiment with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to support law enforcement and community safety initiatives as part of a just-launched AI specialist research centre.

The new AI for Law Enforcement Community Safety Lab (AiLECS), to be based within Monash’s Faculty of Information Technology (IT), will leverage machine learning, natural language processing, network analysis and other techniques to support law enforcement in countering child abuse material, detecting illegal firearms, recognising misinformation and analysing large online criminal networks.

AiLECS, which started as a research lab in 2019, was described as a “strong example of technological expertise” in creating initiatives towards fostering safer communities.

Since 2019, AiLECS has initiated several projects aimed at improving safety and supporting law enforcement.

In addition to AI and technology scientists from Monash University, the new research centre will also include representatives from the AFP and other experts with extensive experience in law enforcement, including Professor Jon Rouse APM, a pioneer of countering child exploitation and former head of the world-renowned ‘Taskforce Argos’ in the Queensland Police Service.

AFP Deputy Commissioner, Lesa Gale, said the collaboration with the University was vital for supporting the disruption of tech-savvy criminals.

“Our partnership with Monash University is an exceptional example of how we can adapt to the criminal challenges we are facing, but also provide the public with assurances that they need and deserve in relation to privacy concerns, AI and machine learning,” Deputy Commissioner Gale said.

AiLECS co-director and AFP leading senior constable Dr Janis Dalins added it was critical for police across the globe to be active participants in emerging technologies.

“Through this collaboration we are able to combine global first research initiatives in AI and machine learning with law enforcement expertise and principles. We aim to be a voice for ethics and accountability in AI,” Dr Dalins said.

One of the AilECS Lab’s projects includes the Project Metior Telum, where Monash researchers and the AFP, along with an industry partner, have used photogrammetry and 3D scanning to construct a digital library of firearms, enabling the rapid development of next-generation tools for detecting and combating firearms trafficking.

“Metior Telum is an important illustration of where collaboration can take us. We can trace every element of our library, from ownership to specific models,” Dr Dalins added.

The AFP, through the Commonwealth Confiscated Assets Account, has expanded the AiLECS Lab’s activities under a four-year funding program. Monash University has also contributed to the expansion.