TechUK urges police forces to shift to the cloud and increase online crime reporting

Written by Rebecca Hill on 14 December 2016 in News

Police forces need to increase their use of online crime reporting tools, live-streaming videos and adoption of cloud-based systems, TechUK has said.techUK estimates the cost of police time spent on low level crime reporting to be £130m a year.3

TechUK wants police forces to get more training and increase use of online crime reporting - Photo credit: PA

In its Digital Policing report, the representative body for smaller tech companies sets out a number of ways the UK’s police force can save money and time by improving its use of technology.

“The nature of crime is facing. How we fight it must change too. We must adopt digital,” TechUK said, arguing that an increase in technology-enabled crimes calls for a new kind of policing.

In addition, better technology gives police forces the opportunity to focus on a more wholesale rethink of crime prevention.

The report welcomed the government’s commitment to improving policing in its Modern Crime Prevention Strategy – published in March this year – but made recommendations for where the government could, and should, go further.

This includes getting forces to digitise crime reporting where possible, for instance by making better use of live-streaming CCTV and body worn video footage into control rooms to make crime verification easier and cut down on police responding to false alarms.

Forces should also be encouraged to ask people to submit CCTV videos and images directly to forces online - TechUK noted that the cost of police time spent on low level crime reporting is around £130m a year and that using technology could reduce time spent dealing with such crimes by 25%.

“The current system, whereby officers are dispatched to collect video footage, is outdated and enormously inefficient. And this inefficiency in the system may deter business from reporting crimes online,” the report said.

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Among TechUK’s other recommendations are for police forces to make sure they are planning for a transition to the cloud – including an increased use of G-Cloud – and to develop campaigns to encourage the public to use technologies that protect their identities online.

It also suggested allowing people to verify their age with a smartphone, which it said would stop people from carrying valuable paper ID around and potentially losing it, which opens them up to identity fraud.

However, TechUK also emphasised that using more advanced technologies in isolation is “not enough”, and that the police force needs to invest in the right skills and frameworks to procure, implement and operate the technologies.

This echoes comments made by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s 2016 review of police efficiency, published in November, which said that “very few forces are focusing on developing their officers’ and staff’s digital skills”.

TechUK’s report recommended that police forces take a three-tiered approach to training, including ensuring that all officers have at least a “rudimentary understanding” of digital intelligence.

Forces should also equip frontline staff with mobile-accessible toolkits explaining the procedures for dealing with digital evidence and create a single framework that allows the police to access specialist capabilities from industry.

The government should also focus on improving procurement and innovation within the police force, TechUK said, for instance through incentivising the use of cloud procurement platform G-Cloud and improving the quality of data on the government Contract Finder.

Such initiatives have been welcomed by industry, TechUK said, but surveys have shown that they are hard to use.

“It is clear that while these initiatives have made a difference, more needs to be done incentivise the public sector to utilise them, to raise awareness of them among the supplier community, and to make them user friendly and easy to use,” the report said.

TechUK’s comments come a month after the Policing Vision 2025 report from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which said that digitisation could “revolutionise the criminal justice process”.

That report indicated plans to boost staff skills, share digital evidence and improve recording and analysis of online crime, as well as suggesting the creation of “national, cross-force or hub structures” to allow common capabilities to be shared between forces.

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