Police forces across the UK are struggling to cope with technologically advanced crimes and are failing to exploit digital investigative techniques, a report has said.
Police forces need to get to grips with new technology – Photo credit: PA
In its report into police effectiveness, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said it was “concerned that police forces are not keeping pace with how technology is transforming the lives of citizens and changing how they experience crime”.
HMIC said that forces were not able to exploit digital investigative opportunities due to insufficient capacity or capability.
This includes the time taken to examine mobile phones or laptops for evidence, with HMIC saying there were more than 16,000 digital devices still awaiting examination when it carried out its investigation.
This lack of digital forensic capability has been raised in previous HMIC reports, and the most recent one, published this month, said that there was evidence that forces were making “a concerted effort” to improve the situation.
However, some of these approaches, such as using overtime or outsourcing to tackle backlogs and reduce waiting times, were not sustainable, the report said.
At the time of the investigation, HMIC said, there was not enough evidence that forces have “an established and achievable approach” to managing increasing demand for digital policing, it said.
HMIC also said that forces needed to make better use of new technologies to make better use of their resources, especially as budgets are shrinking, for instance with crime-mapping software and enhanced predictive analytical tools.
“Innovative analytical techniques should be used to help the service to make decisions about where to target resources,” the report said. “Most forces have not yet explored fully the use of new and emerging techniques and analysis to direct operational activity at a local level.”
Forces are also struggling with the technology-enabled element of fraud, the report said.
In November 2016, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs’ Council issued a joint Policing Vision 2025, which set out plans to boost staff skills, share digital evidence and improve recording and analysis of online crime.
Among the pledges in this report was a commitment to better share resources, integrate and consolidate IT systems and improve analytical capabilities of staff.