Crime-preventing tech to lead the digital police force


Budget cuts, new digital technologies as well as an evolving security landscape are forcing the police to review how it delivers services and what services are appropriate for the future. While today’s police leaders understand there is no “silver-bullet” solution, some forward-thinking forces are eager to embrace operational, technological, organisational and cultural change to help overcome the challenges of today and prepare for the even greater challenges of tomorrow.

Today digital technologies are compressing police reaction times and have set the stage for technologies such as social media, mobile and analytics to become game-changing forces for policing in the future. While technology alone is not the answer, there is now a growing industry consensus that technology transformation must be part of the overall solution.

Prioritising technology adoption can prevent crimes and provide faster responses to citizens
The police forces who adopt and integrate new technologies into their operations will become the police forces of the future – and what others will be modelling themselves after in the years to come. To keep our cities and citizens safe, law enforcement must be armed with the right technology tools as well as the right processes, behaviour and culture to solve – or even prevent – the toughest crimes at faster rates.

Accenture recently studied police forces from around the world and found that in every region, they are hungry for technology transformation. They increasingly see digital technologies such as mobile, analytics, wearable technologies and biometrics (identification of humans by their characteristics or traits) as key to revolutionising how they can effectively serve their communities and maximise the time officers spend in the field. Prioritising technology adoption and ensuring that the right processes are in place will not only help police forces do more with reduced budgets, it can prevent crime, help solve crimes faster and provide faster responses to citizens.

Accenture also undertook research among citizens to understand their views on the greater use of new digital technologies by police forces. It found that 80 per cent of citizens believe the increased use of new digital tools can improve police services and support the adoption of new crime-fighting technologies by police forces.

Public safety and security are top priorities for Singapore, which takes pride in its famously low crime rate. Last year, the Singapore Ministry for Home Affairs, which is responsible for policing, and the Singapore Economic Development Board launched a one-year “Safe City” pilot programme. Safe City applied electronic vision technologies and predictive analytics to CCTV feeds to detect which of a multitude of street incidents, such as crowd and traffic movement, pose real concerns for public order or safety. In addition, beyond crime prevention, the video feeds identified other public safety incidents such as flooding and other environmental threats as they arose. When a serious incident was identified, an alert was sent to the authority from which a response was required.
Other cities are using statistical analysis and predictive modelling to identify crime trends and highlight “hidden” connections between disparate events and trends. This helps police to gain a more complete picture of crime, predict patterns of future criminal behaviour and identify the key causal factors of crime in their area.

In London, the Metropolitan Police Service recently completed a pilot programme to develop an analytics solution to fight gang crime in the capital. The 20-week pilot enabled the Met to assess the likelihood of known individuals re-offending. It merged data from various crime reporting and criminal intelligence systems used by the Met and applied predictive analytics to generate risk scores on the likelihood of known individuals committing violent crimes across all known gangs in all 32 London boroughs.

The story is much the same in the US, where police forces have much experience of deploying technology to prevent crime and manage police operations The Seattle Police Department is implementing a data analytics platform that will give it reliable and rapidly accessible data, enabling it to meet management objectives and better support leadership decision making when it comes to both operational and front-line policing activities.

Looking forward

Next on the horizon of law enforcement technologies is biometric technology, including facial recognition. Cheaper high-resolution cameras and advances in matching technology are resulting in new public-safety solutions. The same technology that has been used to identify high-rollers in casinos, for example, can now be used to identify people banned from football stadia or terrorists on a watch list at key border control points.

While not all police investigations resemble CSI today, the potential for technology to reduce crime and danger to citizens is real. The use of analytics, including location-based and predictive analytics, has proven its effectiveness through many policing programmes. While reduced budgets are hindering the pace of technology adoption by some police forces, all forces – no matter what their fiscal circumstances – must seek to foster a culture of readiness that helps and prepares officers to embrace technologies as they become available. The police force of the future is without doubt a technology-enabled one.