Fighting crime with technology
Microsoft reviews the technology that can help police officers perform their jobs more effectively
Like much of the public sector, police forces up and down the country are facing budget pressures with funding reductions and the government’s drive to ‘do more with less’. Following last year’s additional 5% cut to government funding, Police Chief Constables are now forecasting the total impact that their forces will have to contend with during this parliament. Included in this is Kent police, which faces a £61m reduction in funding over the next four years, and Thames Valley Police, which will need to operate with a budget that is predicted to shrink by £33m between 2016-18.
If police forces are to continue to function at the same level of staffing, all the while increasing the impact on fighting crime, then a fundamental change in the way they operate is required. Technology can empower organisations to affect significant cost savings during times of deeper cuts and increased austerity, by enabling them to achieving more with less, and in a shorter timeframe.
But what specifically can technology bring to the fore, and how does it impact front line policing and crime fighting?
To perform their jobs effectively, police officers and staff need to know where crimes or incidents are likely to occur so they can anticipate problems and focus their efforts. They need to communicate and collaborate in real time as emergencies unfold. And they need to collect and manage large amounts of evidence in support of their cases. It is critical that police forces (and more broadly, public safety agencies) have the right information at the right time so they can quickly assess situations, respond to incidents with the correct personnel and equipment, and communicate with their constituents.
This is already happening in the UK, as police forces and other public services start to embrace many of Microsoft’s “intelligence-led, first-response” solutions designed to help public safety officials mitigate threats and improve the safety of their communities. Combined, these solutions can help front line and operational support teams address threats more effectively, while better preparing citizens during times of need.
Over the coming weeks, we will be taking a look at how technology can help police forces improve the way they protect their local areas, all the way from the front line to the completion of the judicial process. In the first article of the series we run through some of the key ways technology can help officers on the streets and their supporting teams manage incidents as and when they unfold.
Here are some of the capabilities we offer:
Better data and analytics
Today, criminal data at the local, regional, and national levels is typically stored in disparate databases, forcing law enforcement officials to search for information in multiple places. Microsoft offers an end-to-end big data platform that enables officials to gather data of any size, from any source, and turn it into critical insights that lead to better-informed responses.
This can be seen in action at Durham Constabulary. By using Microsoft Dynamics as part of a digital first approach to policing, Durham’s frontline users have been able to do their jobs in a quicker and more streamlined way. Better arrangement and presentation of the information makes it easier for officers to access and take in the relevant information, facilitating a real synergy between IT and the front line.
In addition, law enforcement officials can develop predictive models to help them analyse historical patterns to assess where future threats are likely to occur. With this information in hand, first-responders can focus their efforts in high-risk areas and help prevent incidents from occurring.
Improved safety surveillance
Using portable technology such as sensors, video cameras, license plate readers, and gun-shot detectors, public safety officials can monitor high-traffic public areas, correlating all of the data they collect in real time to detect potential threats. This, in turn, enables them to address threats in near real-time. And with real-time logging and sharing of incident information by personnel at the scene – without having to return to operational bases – police and other emergency services can assess situations based upon a wider, more accurate, and timelier body of information.
Enhanced emergency management
As an emergency unfolds, public safety officials can easily collaborate so they can coordinate their responses. They can share documents across agencies, use maps to identify the location of each first-responder, and combine information received from different agencies and citizens. And with tools like Microsoft Surface Hub, public safety officials can share all of this content on an interactive whiteboard, communicating critical information to field personnel and working together to develop and implement effective strategies.
Take for example Cambridge Constabulary, where the digital approach to tackling crime sees officers automatically notified of pertinent information and ongoing events as and when they move into particular areas. So as soon as they enter into a designated zone they will know where other officers are, and what tasks or activities need completing.
Advanced evidence management
Increasingly, police agencies are collecting large quantities of video evidence from a range of sources including surveillance cameras, body-worn cameras, in-car video, and interviews of suspects and witnesses. To make use of all of this information, they need to be able to store and transfer it in the most secure and cost effective manner possible. They also need advanced tools to help them find specific footage and redact sensitive information before video is released to the public.
The Microsoft cloud provides enterprise-class security, while reducing the cost of video storage by as much as 30–50 percent compared with managing it on-premises. It also allows public safety officials to securely transfer data from the crime scene all the way to the courtroom. In addition, Microsoft Azure includes tools that enable investigators to instantly find relevant video information, while automatically redacting faces and other sensitive data.
Looking again at Cambridge Constabulary, the Microsoft cloud has been used to great effect, allowing officers to build their evidence by capturing digital media and sharing it with the entire organisation directly from the scene of the incident. This also ensures that case files can reach crown prosecution lawyers sooner, removing a number of associated costs and speeding up the process resulting in move convictions.
Using Microsoft’s intelligence-led, first-response solutions, public safety officials can revolutionise their intelligence capabilities. They can make data-driven decisions, detect threats more quickly, and better coordinate their responses and evidence. It all adds up to less crime and safer, more prosperous communities.
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