Crime in London is higher than it should be due to shoddy and out-of-date technology that is being used by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
A damning report by the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee, entitled Smart Policing: How the Metropolitan Police Service can make better use of technology, said the force is currently spending a large portion of its budget on keeping technology that dates as far back as the 1970s operational.
This is holding it back from embracing new, cutting-edge tools in the fight against crime. Chairman of the assembly committee, John Biggs, said this situation had to change in order to improve policing in the capital.
“The Met has been paying over the odds for technology for years – much of which has gone on maintaining a collection of outdated and increasingly inefficient systems put together over the last 40 years. This has got to change," he said.
The report noted that the Met is now considering rolling out 20,000 mobile devices to officers to improve their work on the beat, but Biggs said it was very late in the day to start this work.
“Every other person has a smartphone in their pocket and yet the Met are only just starting to look at rolling out similar tools,” he said.
The use of innovative crime-mapping tools was also cited as another area where modern technology was not being utilised to its full potential.
“They should also be working on predictive crime mapping, like that used in Los Angeles, to get officers in the right place at the right time to deter criminals and reassure the public,” Biggs said.
The report added that cloud computing use could also help cut costs and improve services.
“Cloud-based technology – where servers are contracted on [a] ‘pay-as-you-use’ basis – can help police forces organise their ICT more cheaply. Cloud technology is commonly used in the private sector and in some public-sector organisations such as the Ministry of Defence,” it said.
The report comes on the back of several high-profile incidents of poor technology control at the Met, with assistant commissioner Mark Rowley revealing earlier this year that some computers at the Met take 30 minutes to boot up.
V3 also revealed in April that over 800 of the force's devices were lost over the last three years, while six officers were sacked for offensive social media use.
Although social media use has perils for the police, the committee's report said that it was an important part of any technology strategy to try and engage more with the public.
"Social media has a vital role to play in the future of policing. It can help forces to manage high-profile incidents or events; provide a useful source of intelligence; and allow officers to interact with local communities in a cost-effective way," the report said.
"But HMIC told the Committee that police forces have been quite slow at developing their use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Met – despite having one of the UK’s most popular police Twitter feeds – is no exception."
The Met Police said it welcomed the report's findings and that it was working on improving its use of technology.
"We are committed to making best possible use of technology as this is crucial for providing a modern policing service to the public, whilst ensuring our officers and staff are able to do so in an efficient and effective manner," it said in a statement.
"The ability to use mobile devices will enable officers to access information, conduct statements, take evidence and make enquiries remotely, enabling us to spend more time on the streets keeping Londoners safe."
The report comes amid wider work by the Met alongside counterparts in New York and Los Angeles to try to tackle the increase in smartphone theft in major cities.
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