Set against a back drop of budget cuts and a general streamlining of police resources, forces and agencies across the UK are facing an array of new challenges, both at a national and local level.
Speaking at the Criminal Justice Management (CJM) conference last week, Chris Price, Head of Police Science and Technology at the Home Office, spoke very eloquently in his talk on ‘Modernising Police Technology’. He discussed how such restrictions have fostered local innovation, and how the focus is at a cultural, rather than a purely practical level, underpinning the need for systemic cooperation across the UK police and public services more generally. Such issues further the importance of collaboration across both geographic and procedural boundaries, ensuring that resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible, as the police continuously strive to stay one step ahead of offenders inhabiting an ever more digital world.
My colleague John Wright, Global Director Public Safety and Justice Solutions at Unisys, was also presenting at the event and commented: “The UK has seen the largest fall in police numbers across Europe in recent years. In fact, there was a reduction of 11% between 2011 and 2014, equating to around 16,000 officers. We are also observing a shift in the landscape of crime. Despite figures reducing in general, there is a much greater prevalence of crime likes fraud – recording a 17% year on year increase. As criminals become ever more tech-savvy, technology has to be the sharp edge of the sword at the forefront of this battle. But HMIC’s latest report found that ‘Many forces are operating with old technology, ill-suited to modern crime fighting’ and that this should be addressed as a matter of priority.”
The drivers are there, and Price highlighted the progress already being made by forward thinking forces up and down the country. The use of mobile technology in several police forces has allowed officers to take and submit reports and statements without having to return to the station. With this facility and constant access to data on the front line he commented, “Technology has the capability and capacity to enhance the way officers on the street can operate and has already resulted in a 20% reduction in the time officers spend in the station.” This technology allows officers to link up in a seamless way with the rest of the criminal justice system. But this doesn’t stop with officers. Solutions in place like Live Link allow victims, officers and witnesses to give evidence via video transmission without having to be in situ and mobile platforms allow members of the public to feedback on services, track crime processing or pay outstanding fines.
Huge strides have also been made on the investigative side, as forces begin to take advantage of the very latest developments in technology to foster intelligence-led investigation. Forces now have access to solutions that can drastically improve efficiency while empowering their officers and analysts to derive much greater insight from gathered data. They provide greater abilities in terms of tracking, monitoring suspects and building more in-depth profiles from an otherwise minimal data set. Crucially this lies in the ability to derive connections and associations that might not otherwise be visible. The fact these continually update in real-time gives police in the station and on the front line, the most up to date view of information pertaining to investigations.
During a demonstration of U-LEAF (Unisys Law Enforcement Application Framework), Shilpi Kumar, U-LEAF Product Manager, explains that harnessing analytical capabilities in a centralised location allows officers and analysts to drill down into the most granular data or step back and visualise the case as a whole. U-LEAF has brought exciting new capabilities that can take much of the legwork off Police forces and even open, expand and inform existing lines of enquiry. Data that may not have been considered is drawn into investigations and matches are flagged from reports being continually submitted in other ongoing inquiries, based on a variety of search criteria. Vastly improved and intelligent search functions make sourcing data easier and drastically cut administration time. Multiple visualisations of this data, from detailed link analysis to integrating group sets with geolocation in a map view, can prove vital in locating otherwise illusive suspects. On top of all this, operators can input data sets and lists, in any format, whether that be anything from a call history to an aircraft passenger list. Systems can ingest this data and integrate it seamlessly into the ongoing operation.
As the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said, “the oxygen of effective policing is intelligence” and there is still room for improvement across the sector in the way technology is used to drive this. To echo Price’s words as he concluded his address with a particularly poignant call to action, “More can be done to develop and adopt these (technological) capabilities……Together we need to challenge the old ways of thinking”.
The Criminal Justice Management 2014 conference was attended by approximately 350 delegates. Unisys representatives presented U-LEAF at two interactive seminars where a total audience of 120 were taken through a mock investigation, watching the solution in action.