The life of a crime analyst is a complex one. Responsible for piecing clues together and linking cases; it takes a logical mind and intense concentration. It’s also time consuming, as reading through reports and making links is not a quick job. Whilst digital databases have made the process infinitely quicker, crime analysts are still fighting with one hand behind their backs, so to speak. As despite holding a wealth of information, these databases aren’t connected, meaning every time an analyst wants to run a search, invariably, it means over 70 individual searches across 40-50 separate databases.
It’s hard to believe that in 2020 our key public services operate in this disparate way. It is perhaps understandable on an interagency basis due to the sensitivity of the information, but we must provide this critical public function the ability to speed up operations. On a granular level for analysts, this division means different databases for number plate checks (ANPR), background checks or location analysis – all of which are housed separately. Just think how much time, effort and opportunity is lost thanks to this disparate approach?
Poor data protection practices are creeping in as a result. In a desperate attempt for efficiency, screen shots taken on phones are now commonplace as they’re added to reports. The fact that this information is not centralised is maddening in today’s technologically advanced age.
As the UK moves towards adopting smart cities and infrastructure, this must be reflected in how we run our public services. This means agencies and departments helping each other. We all know that the police national database is available for shared intelligence, but local forces favour their own databases – this hoarding of information on a local level needs to stop. We’ve seen the success of data sharing (county drug lines) so why can’t this be replicated more often? It could be used in the fight against knife crime, and better inform officers of what they might be facing at a crime scene.
Enabling analysts to pull information in one action – pulling disparate databases into one report will help them spot trends quicker, meaning they can advise officers instantaneously whether they should take more care than normal. Granted, some crimes (the worst and most distressing) should not be accessible to all, but with fine grain access control (FGAC), redaction is possible for those below the authorised level.
Getting computers to do the heavy lifting will help drive the UK forward in the ever-present fight against crime. With greater efficiencies and insights, police forces can use their resources where they’re needed, driving their efficacy. Plus, with a unified approach, computers can help analysts spot vital trends quicker, driving instances of crime prevention, which is arguably more valuable than making an arrest.
Despite the imminent increase in officers, our security services are stretched thin with a growing threatscape and bad actors on a physical and digital front. Only by uniting operations and working together can this threat be countered effectively, and technology is the fulcrum that this must be built on.