Countering Terrorism

The New South Wales (NSW) Police Force is committed to engaging with the community on counter terrorism issues.

As the lead agency for counter terrorism in NSW, the police are keen to improve police understanding of community concerns relating to the terrorism powers, and to increase community understanding of the terrorism arrangements in NSW.

Alert Level

Countering Terrorism

The NSW Police Force is committed to engaging with the community on counter terrorism issues.

As the lead agency for counter terrorism in NSW, we seek to improve community understanding of the terrorism arrangements in NSW and address any community concern relating to terrorism powers legislation.

Australia's current National Terrorism Threat Level is POSSIBLE.​ This is because there are a small number of people in Australia and overseas who want to cause Australia harm.

You don't need to change your daily behaviour or activities, but it is important to be aware of current advice from police or guidance from Government authorities regarding changes to the threat level.​

National Threat Advisory System

National Terrorism Threat Level is set in accordance with the National Terrorism Threat Advisory System - a five-tier, colour coded, National Terrorism Threat scale which informs the public about the likelihood of an act of terrorism occurring in Australia.  It enables authorities, businesses, and individuals to take appropriate measures for their own safety and security as well as that of their family, friends and associates.

Alert level chart

National Terrorism Threat Level of POSSIBLE means that while Australia remains a potential target of a terrorist attack there are fewer violent extremists with the intention to conduct an attack onshore. The factors that led to an elevation of the terrorism threat level in 2014 no longer exist or persist to a lesser degree.

What should you do?

In the current environment, Australians should go about their daily business as usual but should exercise caution and be aware of events immediately around them.

If you see, hear or become aware of something suspicious or unusual, call the National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00. Every call is important and could prevent a terrorist attack in Australia.

For an emergency contact Triple Zero (000), and to report information about crime in confidence contact CRIME STOPPERS 1800 333 000.

Refer to the Australian National Security Website for further information on:

The NSW Police Force Facebook page will carry regular updates every time fresh information comes to hand.  Just search for then follow NSW Police Force within Facebook.

Further news and information on crime and community safety can be found within the Website

NSW Police Force Engagement Intervention Unit

The NSW Police Force Engagement Intervention Unit engages with community groups on terrorism related issues. The unit aims to increase community awareness of counter terrorism arrangements and to build police understanding of their impacts on the community. In addition, there are other NSW Police Force programs in place to encourage tolerance and mutual respect such as the community liaison officers in local area police offices.

Facial Recognition

NSW Police Force and Facial recognition

NSW Police Force (NSWPF) uses a range of operational tactics and technologies to prevent, disrupt, investigate and respond to serious and violent crime and help keep communities safe. One valuable tool is facial recognition technology (FR).

Criminal organisations are taking advantage of new and emerging technologies, and in response, are developing new ways to commit crime, particularly identity related crime.

According to research by the Australian Institute of Criminology, identity crime will impact around 1 in 4 Australians over their lifetime and it is estimated to cost more than $3.1 billion annually to the economy. Identity crime is also a key enabler of serious and organised crime, which according to the an Australian Institute of Criminology report has an estimated annual cost to Australia of up to $60.1 billion.

As technology changes, policing needs to change with it and FR allows law enforcement to proactively and quickly respond to these emerging threats. What is facial recognition technology?

FR is a term used for any technology that compares one photo with another to identify a person or confirm their identity. There are many kinds of FR and many ways to use the technology, but essentially, they all help identify a person from a digital image.

FR maps facial features from a photo. It reads the geometry of a face and develops a numerical template to coincide with measurements between facial features (distance between eyes, width of nose etc). This creates a unique facial signature. This template is then compared to photographic information stored in a database to find a match.

Responsible use of facial recognition technology

NSWPF is committed to using FR responsibly, balancing the requirements of relevant legislation and operational policing objectives with the interests of the community. This includes the rights and privacy of individuals. In balancing these interests, NSWPF aims to promote ethical, legal and professional practices across all of its policing techniques.

We are committed to protecting the privacy and security of your personal information in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 (NSW) and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

How does NSWPF use facial recognition technology?

NSWPF uses different FR systems to prevent, disrupt and investigate crime. These resources can be used to protect the public by:

  • assisting investigators to identify persons of interest by comparing their image, possibly taken from CCTV with a catalogue of images of individuals charged with criminal offences;
  • supporting investigators to enhance national security, combat terrorism and identity crime;
  • identify individuals who are at risk, including investigating missing persons or in relation to a disaster event;
  • investigating other serious criminal activity, such as organised crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, people smuggling and child exploitation.

FR supports normal investigative methods by automating existing policing functions – It does NOT replace them. There is no substitute for a human using their judgement and training to manually review suggestions made by FR tools to identify unknown persons and respond appropriately.

Once a potential identification has been made using FR, it is assessed by a specialist facial recognition examiner. Police then use traditional law enforcement techniques to confirm whether the individual is in fact a person of interest in relation to the investigation.

NSWPF has an existing catalogue of “charge” photos. These are photos of people that have previously been in police custody and have been charged with an offence. Police use FR to compare a photo of an unknown suspect with the charge photos on file to see if there is a match.

This system can produce leads for investigators. It can also create photographic line-ups and photo boards that can be shown to a witness or victim to help with faster suspect identification.

How are law enforcement agencies across Australia working together to protect you?

NSWPF is working with the Commonwealth and other law enforcement agencies to protect Australians from identity crime and stay one step ahead of those that threaten our community and undermine Australia’s identity checking processes.

All Australian governments have agreed to participate in the Face Matching Services (FMS) that enable Australian law enforcement, intelligence and anti-corruption agencies to work better together to investigate serious crime. The FMS will also protect Australians from identity crime by helping people to verify their identity in a way that is fast, secure and private.

The FMS use the latest facial recognition technology to compare photos against existing government-issued documents with photographic information, for example immigration visas or passports.

NSWPF conducted a limited (low volume) trial of the FMS to test the system and evaluate the privacy, security and accountability safeguards. More information on the Commonwealth FMS is available on the IDMatch website at

Frequently Asked Questions

How is my privacy protected?

NSWPF is committed to making sure that citizen’s privacy is protected and that personal information is secure against hacking or misuse.

NSWPPF has a Privacy Management Plan that sets out legal obligations and responsibilities to respect the privacy rights of members of the public.

The NSW Government has also committed to protecting citizen’s personal information, and enhancing identity security, in its NSW Identity Strategy. To learn more about the Strategy, you can visit the NSW Identity Strategy Government website.

How accurate is facial recognition technology?

FR used by NSWPF has a high standard of accuracy and the accuracy of the technology available is improving year by year. However, we do not rely on the accuracy of the technology alone, and always use FR in combination with human expertise.

Results from a facial recognition search are assessed by a face matching expert. FR is never the only tool used to conclusively identify a person. Police are trained to understand that FR does not provide a definitive answer about the identity of persons of interest or victims. The results of a search must always be combined with other information available to police, before a positive identification is made.

Useful Links

NSW Government countering terrorism in NSW - Secure NSW

National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.