Power of the cloud to tackle crime
A low-level crime reporting system created independently by an entrepreneur could help the police unlock the power of crowdsourcing and cloud computing to solve some of their IT efficiency problems, UKAuthority.com has learned.
Facewatch is the brainchild of Simon Gordon, owner of Gordon's Wine Bar - London's oldest, dating back to 1890 - who was frustrated by the practical difficulties of reporting petty crime quickly and effectively. The web-based system allows business to take witness statements and upload details including CCTV footage in officially approved formats, and it can also cancel credit cards.
Police forces access the same system and can then decide whether or not to pursue the case and an official crime number is issued back. Direct email communication is also initiated by the system between the police and the victim.
Police update the crime status throughout the investigation and can use the system for secure messaging between the business and case officers which remains on the case file. The system can also help with statistical crime analysis.
Trials last year in the Victoria Business Improvement District and Westminster areas of London resulted in an increase in detection rates from 5.1% to 8.8%, plus savings in police and victim time and costs."The police didn't use to be able to do anything before they went along to the scene, had a look, seen any footage - it might have taken days", Facewatch spokesperson Stuart Greenfield told UKAuthority.com. "By the time they had done that, the trail had gone cold."
Individual business owners can use the reporting and image sharing services of Facewatch for free, with an enhanced paid service offered to county councils and business investment districts drawing together reporting activity in their area in a single portal including enhanced local image sharing, Greenfield said.
Where the project becomes really interesting is in considering how far this privately-developed system could - through the power of cloud computing - become a fully integrated part of the police's official IT systems.
Police forces are planning on using Facewatch at new telephone reporting centres in London, as well as offering access to officers on duty to check and share images. Currently, if a case comes to court it means re-entering all details into separate police IT systems but in future it could become fully integrated, Greenfield said.
"This is leading-edge, cloud-based technology - if the police were to develop it themselves it might take 5-10 years to go through their purchasing process."