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Police receive £5 million to test crime prediction system


Mark Say Managing Editor

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West Midlands Police has received a pledge of £5 million from the Home Office to continue its work with a data analytics system to assess the risk of someone becoming a perpetrator or victim of crime.

It is due to receive the money from the Police Transformation Fund to follow up its first year of testing of the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS).

The force has been leading the trials of the system, which draws on police-held data and has reportedly been used by a number of other police forces.

Announcing the funding, the Home Office said the NDAS is designed to support rather than replace decision-making by police officers.

Superintendent Nick Dale, who leads on NDAS for West Midlands Police, said: “This technology has the potential to help us understand modern slavery networks – the hidden crime within our communities – so much better, as well as the problems that lead to serious violence that blights communities and affects the lives of victims and perpetrators.

“We are still at an early stage in identifying how best machine learning technology can be used, but it is really important that our work is scrutinised independently from an ethical point of view, and that technology will never replace professional judgement or affect the police’s accountability for our actions.”

Ethical effort

The Home Office said West Midlands Police is working with experts and other organisations to ensure an effective ethical oversight is in place.

A force internal document indicates that NDAS could be used to prompt interventions by partner agencies, but sets out constraints on its function. It says the system will not create a centralised law enforcement database to be queried in a similar way to the Police National Database, and will only use a subset of data from disparate local systems, rather than perform a full integration.

Although it will generate insights and share them with agencies, it will not prescribe any interventions.

Campaign groups including Liberty have previously protested about the use of such technology by police forces, claiming that it raises the risk of serious infringements of civil liberties.

Image: Matty Ring, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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