UK police forces are failing to respond fast enough to crime and use resources efficiently because they are woefully behind the times in their use of technology.
According to a number of retired police chiefs speaking at an IBM event in Hursley on Tuesday attended by V3, public sector budget constraints have meant forces have to choose between more police officers on the beat or investments in new technology.
Because the public generally rallies for the former option, investment in technology suffers, said Keith Bentley, a retired police chief superintendent of Greater Manchester Police.
Bentley argued that by not using advanced technologies police are having to act in a reactionary way to crime, and still cannot respond fast enough.
"We are not doing good enough. I don't mean that critically of individual officers, but as an organisation. We can do better," said Bentley
Bentley cited the Metropolitan Police project, Sapphire, which aims to clamp down on rape and sexual offences in London, as an example of a system that could greatly improve with technology.
"Remember the Kirk Reid case. For a decade he raped women in South West London but it took four years to arrest him after he became a suspect. Because of this delay women suffered. Systematically we can do better and this will happen by using supportive technology," said Bentley.
Bentley said all police forces in the UK are using some type of predictive analytics technology, predominantly IBM SPSS analytics software, but that this is not very sophisticated when used alone, and is predominantly used by forces to publish criminal statistics rather than track down crime.
Modelling technology and information management software needs to be used in conjunction with SPSS to allow forces to analyse numerous data sets in real time and make predictions on what crimes will take place, he added.
However he said that the budget constraints on police forces mean there is a lack of professional analysts who can work such technology available to the forces.
Bentley also said police forces do not make good enough use of the data sets available to them from other areas of the public sector, and withhold sharing information between forces.
"We can deliver localism with limited outcomes or deliver joined up systems and improve policing," said Bentley.
Bentley suggested police forces need to be more proactive in making use of data from departments like social services, national intelligence services, housing services, education and the inland revenue, as well as data from the national census and social networks.
Linking such data together can often allow police officers to find criminals faster.
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