Wired coppers: the new technology behind Old Bill
The national Automatic Number Plate Recognition system sees a car travelling over Tower Bridge – nothing unusual, except a vehicle with the same number plate was spotted in Newcastle city centre only two hours ago. Either one car is carrying false plates, or the driver has one hell of a speeding ticket coming his way.
Officers using the STORM command and control system use GPS tracking to assign the nearest patrol car to pursue the suspect car, while CCTV cameras keep track of the vehicle.
Five minutes later, the patrol car has pulled over the vehicle, and the driver’s details are entered into the electronic dashboard in the police Range Rover. The DVLA database knows of no such driver, so the officers decide to fingerprint their suspect using the Lantern reader fitted in their car.
From the Bobbies on the beat carrying smartphones and mobile fingerprint readers, to the unmanned surveillance drones in the sky, the police have a highly sophisticated arsenal of technology at their disposal
Two minutes pass and the results are in: the driver with the duplicate number plates has previous convictions for car theft. A quick check of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) later, and our man is handcuffed and warming the back seat of the Range Rover on suspicion of theft.
This is an entirely fictitious scenario, but not science fiction. All of the above could – and indeed is – used by police officers today.
From the Bobbies on the beat carrying smartphones and mobile fingerprint readers, to the unmanned surveillance drones in the sky, the police have a highly sophisticated arsenal of technology at their disposal.
With police forces right across the UK embracing technology, PC Pro has been talking to security system vendors and the serving officers they supply to find out just how hi-tech 21st-century policing has become, and if the investment in innovation has succeeded in making Britain a safer place.
On the beat
PDAs might seem as cutting edge as The Sweeney to the average PC Pro reader, but they have totally transformed modern beat policing. Peter Harris, head of mobile data at Arqiva, which has supplied PDAs to police forces across the country, calls it the biggest advance of all in the police tech armoury.
An ability to take notes, complete statements and enter all the required information at the crime scene makes for some compelling statistical evidence of just how successful this particular technology is on the policing frontline.
Harris told us that PDA-wielding officers make an average of 1.53 fewer visits to the station to complete paperwork, saving an average of 32 minutes per shift. The connected PDAs have also led to an increase of 168% in Police National Computer searches, helping to track down offenders who’ve skipped bail or who have outstanding fines, for instance.
Of course, outside of the police force, DIY superstores and episodes of Star Trek, nobody uses a PDA. We all use smartphones, so why don’t the police? Well, they do. In South Yorkshire, for example, officers use a police-specific app on BlackBerrys to link to the Police National Computer to identify a person, vehicle or location.
Sergeant Simon Davies, project manager with the South Yorkshire Police, says he hears a lot of “oohs and ahhs” at training courses as officers see what can be achieved with a smartphone.
“A stop and search form, which an officer completes when a member of the public is searched, currently takes an average of five weeks to enter into the database,” Sergeant Davies reveals. “This will become a matter of minutes on the BlackBerry.”