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Fusing data to fight crime

Nowadays, everyone wants – and needs – to be able to do more with less. But how? Increasingly, this is becoming a vital question for Blue Light services. And, not only do they need to answer this question, but they need to excel in their response.

Police forces are facing austerity cuts, an ever-changing demand for service, increasing public expectations, evolving and complex crime types, and new political initiatives. This is not a new reality but a constant struggle to be more efficient with the resources at their disposal.

There is, however, one valuable resource that is on the rise and always increasing. A resource that can play a huge part in solving these problems, a resource that police forces have in abundance… data.

While data is used, to varying extents, to answer important questions and solve critical problems, there is a vast quantity of data that remains largely untapped; hidden in silos and disconnected, either due to access constraints or a lack of understanding as to its potential significance.

Since the inception of Home Office performance targets (which are now obsolete), police forces have been bringing data together to monitor and report performance. Initially based around recorded crime, the data was predominantly focused on core KPIs set by the Home Office. And, while this information never stretched beyond crime data, it helped with basic trend analysis - allowing forces to better review their performance.

When the Home Office moved away from crime ‘targets’, in favour of more qualitative measures, that brought new data and more intelligent, qualitative ways of assessing success.  However, that also coincided with wide-spread spending reviews and cuts in funding for police forces.

So, as today’s landscape matures, there is an increasing realisation that the best way to save money and still achieve a qualitative success, is to do more with data. To identify the ‘How’ and the ‘Why’ and move beyond accepting the symptoms of success and failure, to diagnose the causes and reasons behind them.

To do this, we have to look beyond just crime data and turn to the under-used treasure trove of information held across police organisations.

How can HR, Sickness, Recruitment and Duties data help to fight and reduce crime? How can they drive success and assist in decision-making? Well, in order to more efficiently deal with increasing and more complex demand, we need to understand the resources we have at hand. Why ask a plumber to fix a plug socket? If we know our resources, we can allocate and use them more effectively.

And to fully drive success, data from across the organisation needs to be brought together, out of the silos and placed at the fingertips of decision-makers and their teams. This fusing of datasets enables organisations to find hidden insights into problems and resources, which can identify the most efficient ways to fuel performance and invest vital funding.

Instead of just reacting to the problems they face, with a holistic view of all available data forces can better focus their people and utilities, and assign the right resource to the demand, first time.

Efficiencies are missed when connections are not made, but in a fused data landscape you can test theories to find out the impact these changes can make and spot the patterns causing these inefficiencies. There are many operational and strategic problems that can be identified and solved through organisational changes, but only if the links can be seen.

But why limit this fusion to merely that organisation’s available data? This only gives an internal view and ignores the copious information held by partner agencies and organisations. Take vulnerability for instance. Vulnerability isn’t necessarily linked to crime and therefore can be difficult to spot in communities. By including and fusing partnership data you can find the missing pieces to those puzzles. The volatile medication a person is on, the series of care homes they have resided at, the broken bathroom door that has recently been fixed for the third time in their social housing…

While information sharing between police and partners has improved in recent years, identifying meaning and possible causes is still problematic. It still requires separate systems that are viewed by different people. This means no one person has full sight of all the facts. By truly bringing this multi-agency data together, police forces can create a better view of their citizens and spot patterns that weren’t previously visible, and put measures in place before they escalate.  

At Barrachd, we are working with one of the UK’s biggest police forces to do just this. Bringing together internal data from operational and organisational sources along with information from key partners and wider social and demographic data. Creating this new data warehouse, and fusing all this information allows us to streamline and automate analysis and performance reporting processes through a suite of engaging reports and dashboards.

By creating a fused data environment, we are giving the ability to diagnose problems beyond the incident or even crime itself. With less funding, more pressure, increased complexity, and greater expectations, data fusion can ensure insight is given and the best decisions can be made with the very best use of the available resources.

Photo of Matt Stagg

Matt Stagg

Lead intelligence consultant, Barrachd, part of Capita

Matt is a specialist in the innovative use of data solutions in a threat, risk and harm environment and is Barrachd's lead intelligence consultant. Matt has 16 years’ experience in intelligence-led policing at Surrey and Hampshire Police at a senior leadership level. He’s spent the past five years developing and managing Barrachd data solutions for law enforcement and other, similar environments.

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