Police use picture of Woody Harrelson to find doppelgänger in booze theft case

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Woody Harrelson (Credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire)

Police in New York used a picture of Woody Harrelson to snare a man wanted for stealing beer from an off licence.

According to a report from Georgetown University, the incident occurred in 2017, when police were stumped by an overly pixelated CCTV picture of a thief wanted for the 'petit larceny'.

However, they noticed that the perp looked a lot like Cheers and Hunger Games legend Woody Harrelson.

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And so, using facial recognition technology, a picture of Harrelson was fed into the police system, resulting in a number of matches, and eventually an arrest.

The criminal bore a striking resemblance to Harrelson. (NYPD)

However, although the approach worked, the incident is being used to highlight how such methods could be flawed, in the report from Georgetown University's Centre on Privacy and Technology.

The report stated that the NYPD had also used a picture of a New York Knicks player in the case of an assault in Brooklyn.

“The stakes are too high in criminal investigations to rely on unreliable - or wrong – inputs,” said researcher Clare Garvie.

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“It is one thing for a company to build a face recognition system designed to help individuals find their celebrity doppelgänger or painting lookalike for entertainment purposes.

“It's quite another to use these techniques to identify criminal suspects, who may be deprived of their liberty and ultimately prosecuted based on the match.”

The NYPD said that it would only use the technology to assist enquiries, and not as the sole basis for arrest.

All of this has obvious echoes to the time that a double of David Schwimmer was being sought for stealing a wallet in Blackpool.

This beer thief looked a lot like a certain Friends star (Credit: Lancashire Police)

36-year-old Abdulah Husseini was later pictured on CCTV carrying a slab of beers in a shop, and was later identified thanks to the police releasing his picture.

The day after the man was identified, Lancashire Police gamely tweeted: “Could we BE any more overwhelmed with the response to our CCTV appeal about a theft at a restaurant in Blackpool?

“Most importantly, we’re now satisfied we’ve identified the man in the still & our enquiries are very much continuing. Huge thanks for sharing it with your Friends.”

Schwimmer hilariously responded to the story, filming his own booze heist and posting it to Facebook.