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UK Police Urged To Take Crime Fighting To The Cloud

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Digital technology should play an increasingly significant role to help British police tackle crime, says new report

The trade body techUK has issued a report highlighting the areas that technology can be used to aid the police in their fight against crime.

Specifically, the ‘Digital Policing: The Future of Modern Crime Prevention’ report makes recommendations in order to support the Home Office’s desire for the greater use of tech in policing.

It also reveals what gaps still need to be plugged and the technology areas that British police forces should be exploring.

Vodafone Met Police Tablet 1Police Tech

It should be remembered that the Home Office created a private company  in 2012 to handle ICT procurement for law enforcement, in an effort to help cut the cost of police technology such as telecommunications services and software licences.

But the police forces use of technology is still a hit and miss affair, despite the potential cost savings that digital tech could deliver in these tight budgetary times.

For example, techUK claims that if forces were to implement online reporting and submission of digital evidence (such as CCTV footage), it could reduce the spend on low-level reporting (which is currently costing around £130 million a year) by at least 25 percent. It also points out that the less time the police spend driving to collect DVDs of CCTV footage, the more time they can spend out on the streets.

Another potential way to save costs is to live stream CCTV footage into monitoring stations in order to reduce the £72 million spent on false alarms each year, which would also save time and improve situational awareness.

Thirdly, the report recommends that the general public make use of digital identity technologies to improve online safety and reduce the impact of cybercrime.

Another recommendation is that the police adopt cloud-based platforms to improve accessibility to data and systems. The report also calls for a “comprehensive and structured approach to address the digital skills gap in policing” and a “smarter approach to procurement.”

“In The Home Office’s Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, the Government has rightly identified the significant role that tech can play in modernising how we tackle and prevent crime,” explained Henry Rex, Programme Manager for Justice and Emergency Services at techUK.

“With initiatives such as the Digital Policing Board and the Police Transformation Fund great strides have been made to ensure police are well equipped to tackle crime in the digital age,” said Rex. “However, more needs to be done. Whether it’s accessing and embracing transformational technologies or developing the right digital skills set for officers, police must work with Government and industry to ensure they are best-placed to take advantage of innovative tech.”

“It’s important to remember that crime prevention is not the sole responsibility of the police and Government,” he added. “Businesses and citizens too must consider how they can use tech to reduce the impact of crime.”

Digital Steps

To be fair, the Home Office does seem to be aware of the need to incorporate more technology into crime fighting.

For example, earlier this month it revealed more than £26 million in awards will be given out over the next three years to dozens of police transformation projects, including a data analytics lab and a cloud-based data access programme.

And in November, the Home Office revealed plans to expand the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system and integrate it into a centralised policing database.

Meanwhile other police forces around the world, for example in New York and the Middle East, have previously trialled the use of Google Glass devices to aid them in their daily tasks.

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