To Catch A Thief With Business Intelligence

With the Coalition Government seeking to reassert its position on crime with a series of tough new initiatives, public sector decision-makers should be supporting this approach with a bold approach to technology to transform frontline Policing for the long term.

I have argued before that one of the current administration’s major weaknesses is its lukewarm approach to IT adoption to improve all elements of public services, but crime prevention and Policing is one area where the real potential of data analysis is beginning to be correctly utilised.

UK citizens currently have access to their own local crime maps, which can be accessed simply by inputting a postcode, revealing almost instantly the number and nature of crimes committed in their local area. This data is of course utilised by local forces to deploy resources, take action to reduce hot spots of criminal activity and help push down the number of victims step by step.

Underpinning this unique visibility is the ability to give rookie officers access to data, insight and knowledge that their superiors spent years on the front line acquiring. Knowledge is power, and the more access to quality data the better equipped our Police forces will be to improve their ability to tackle criminal activity on the front line.

At present, there are regular announcements of individual police forces implementing Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards to help officers protect the local community. The motives behind these adoptions is not simply one of cost savings, it is one of service improvements and ultimately reduction of the crime statistics.

However, these isolated examples of technology flair are not representative of the high standards across each force that is expected by the British taxpayers. These deployments need to be centrally managed and co-ordinated to ensure every team of officers is equipped with the very latest crime fighting technologies on the front line to provide a consistent and superior service across the UK.

There are numerous bold examples of BI software in use across the US where significant crime reductions have been made through collaborative data analysis, in some cases predicting crimes before they happen through detailed analysis of movements and weather conditions to pinpoint hotspots before trouble breaks out.

There can be no excuses for the Government to delay fully embracing BI in the fight against crime. Thanks for the explosion of social media, a wealth of data exists to track the movements, analyse and identify potential or ongoing offenders before they commit a criminal act. Developments in analytics and real-time data analysis are making BI a serious weapon in the battle against crime, and the Government should embrace it without delay, to cut costs, improve services and save lives.

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Steven George-Hilley is Director of Technology & Enterprise at Parliament Street, one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. Parliament Street is fundamentally a research-based organisation, producing papers and a political magazine that influence thinkers in government, the media and the academic world. The group holds regular debates in Westminster and at major conferences across the UK.

  • David Wansworth

    US are way ahead of this in terms of crime mapping, analysis etc. It’s true what Steven George-Hilley says in this but the UK is getting better.