Search This Blog

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Crime Record Information System CRIS discussed

Today I am discussing the Metropolitan Police Service Crime System, CRIS. I have just done a number of Google searches allow me to refer you to MPS or other sites that give background information about CRIS but there are none. So I will have to try my best to supply the relevant information.

My major first hand experience of CRIS was running a Crime Desk as Sergeant at Chiswick Police Station and then Hounslow Police Station when the two Divisions amalgamated as part of Borough Policing at the beginning of 1998. I went from a rather poor user of CRIS before the job to an expert in under 6 months due to working on it 7-10 hours a day. CRIS  has changed a bit over the years but not significantly from what I am able to tell from my searches of the system.

Unlike CAD, which is a system that is simple, elegant and clever due to it being designed from the start to maximise the strengths of computerisation, CRIS is none of those things for one basic reason, it totally copied the paper based crime reporting system that proceeded  it. Let me briefly take you through the history.

When I joined the police and for over ten years the way I would record and investigate a crime was by completing a paper crime sheet with a pen. These crime sheets had been developed over the previous 150 years of the Metropolitan Police history and were very good in ensuring that there were places to complete all the necessary details of the crime, show the investigation, suspects, people arrested, supervision, Home Office classification etc, etc. These were in a series of boxes and new sheets could be added as necessary. Different crime books were maintained. Major Crime, Beat Crime, Vehicle Crime, Burglary, Drugs and sometimes Robbery.

This is another very important point. The purpose of the paper record was to record crime and  its investigation; and be counted for official crime statistic purposes.

All that happened with computerisation was that the paper system with it series of boxes were turned into a computerised system with the same boxes which every police officer had to update like they were completing a written record.  No thought was given to how computerisation could actually make policing more efficient and effective. An opportunity was lost to free up police officers time, for instance, by having  specialist civilian operators taking reports from police officers at the scene of the crime . No thought was given to making the investigation details not free text but a series of searchable structured fields, or how the information could be used for intelligence and mapping purposes. The Metropolitan Police is still suffering from these short sighted decisions.

CRIS then is the definitive record of crime recorded by the police. Some of those crimes are recorded as a result of police incidents recorded on CAD. Others are reported over the telephone, via the Internet, at the front counter of police stations or  discovered by police, for instance after arresting someone, investigating another crime, etc.

Now this is where things get slightly complicated. There is a difference between that which is recorded on the CRIS - given a CRIS number - and that which is counted towards the official crime statistics. There are three main reasons for this;
  1. The CRIS record is initually of an allegation, after investigation and supervision the correct classification is given to the record. This is where good "housekeeping" can "legitimately" reduce the number classified as burglary, robbery etc. - the priority crimes.
  2. In the MPS all through my crime recording and investigation days were very straight forward with their crime recording - all allegations went in one system and were classified as crimes unless there was good evidence to show it was not a crime. I believe it was the practice in certain forces to keep the crime rate down and clear-up rate up for a dual system to operate where only crimes that were supported by good evidence went into the official crime book, the others were recorded separately and were only transferred across if more evidence was forthcoming. It seems that the spirit of this has been adopted by the MPS by creating something called the crime incident. This is to ensure that nothing that turns out no to be crime can possibly be counted in the official crime statistics. For instance, where the occurrence of a crime depends on the outcome of forensic tests; a CRIS record is created not as a crime but as crime incident so that a 7 day (it may have changed) classification rule does not apply.
  3. CRIS has filled the gap in the recording of non-crime incidents, most notably Domestic Incidents, known as non-crime domestic incidents. This means that nearly all CAD domestic incidents have a CRIS number; this only sometimes means a crime has been recorded.

Simple Venn Diagram Showing the relationship between CRIS and CAD

No comments:

Post a Comment