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In partnership with the Metropolitan Police, Capita’s electronic monitoring services (EMS) successfully tracked and located 34 individuals suspected of having breached their conditions of release. During a four-night operation, 28 arrests were made, helping to prevent further crimes and freeing up the police force to focus on active, open cases. The other six cases were closed without a need for arrest.
We work with criminal justice partners to provide electronic monitoring (EM, also known as tagging), on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. A tagging order is often imposed as an alternative to prison, whether as a condition of parole, of a non-custodial sentence or of release on bail.
This wasn’t the first time we had helped authorities track down suspects using tagging technology. From April to July 2019, a gang of armed thieves terrorised residents of North London in a series of attacks including the attempted robbery of two Arsenal footballers. Two of the offenders were wearing EMS ankle tags at the time, and through our tracking technology we were able to assist with the arrest and preparation of evidence that saw the gang, believed to have committed over 20 offences, sentenced to a collective 100 years in prison.
A horrific murder by shotgun took place outside a nursery in Birmingham in March 2020. In any murder case, the first 24 hours are critical – but because the two perpetrators were wearing ankle tags, we were again able to help the police force apprehend the suspects in just 12 hours and subsequently help to build an evidence base.
In these cases, our role involved analysing individuals’ historic movements, i.e., after the crimes had been committed. This four-night operation was the first of its kind using GPS data in both recent and real time – potentially preventing crimes before they happened and providing evidence to support prosecution.
Implementing a robust communications system
Tracking offenders who have been ordered to wear ankle tags is more complicated than it seems. An element of domain knowledge is required to accurately interpret the data the technology provides. While a GPS tag captures all of a person’s movements (much like a wearable fitness device), people don’t generally move in straight lines. Human behaviour means we tend to frequent the same places often, so people tend to cross and recross their paths several times.
This means it can be difficult to ‘untangle’ location data and determine where a person is at a specific time. Our skilled employees are trained to understand and analyse whether a point on the map represents a subject’s past or present location, as well as to ‘read’ other data points that may be relevant.
We worked with the Metropolitan Police to set up a communication strategy that co-located our EMS-trained colleagues with the Met, allowing direct communication with front-line officers. During the operation an EMS colleague communicated directly with the Met Control Room who in turn relayed movement information to the police team on the ground.
It’s important to note that while the location data of a tagged person is constantly recorded, access to this data is strictly controlled and governed – the Data Protection Act prohibits the unauthorised use of a suspect’s data, which may hinder prosecution. If police forces require information regarding someone’s location, they must apply in advance to the Ministry of Justice, who will determine whether each request constitutes reasonable justification to access personal information.
Enabling police forces to take back their time and build safer communities
While GPS tagging has been commonplace since 2019, the innovation in this project lay in how existing technology was deployed to support criminal justice organisations. And we’re constantly finding new ways to use it.
Using data together with tracking technology has been hugely successful in helping police forces to be more efficient and effective in their roles. In addition to their day-to-day jobs of responding to calls and reports, they also have a list of people whom they need to find, either because they're wanted for further offences or because they’ve broken the conditions of their release.
Finding and apprehending repeat offenders is vital to building confidence and fostering good relationships between police forces and the communities and citizens they serve. Using our technology and data increases efficiency and efficacy in apprehending offenders, targeting officers to locations where offenders are. Ultimately, this helps to free up time for front-line staff so that they can prioritise active, open cases.
In the future, we’d like to extend our services across England and Wales. Collaborations like this will take the pressure off police forces as well as the courts and support the overall justice system.