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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Best Police in the World?

The British Crime Survey is now called the the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which it always was because it never included Scotland. On 29th of November the Home produced a detailed analysis of the public's perception of the police which be found here.

This is an interesting document for various reasons;

  • It is produced by a coalition government which has scrapped police perception targets as police performance indicators.
  • It is clear that in that all the measures have improved after the Labour Government introduced Neighbourhood Policing (NP), reversing a downward trend in the Tory years on the 1980-90s.
  • The public's confidence in the police continues to rise in the recent coalition years, but this is in a period where policing style has not changed. The real test is is in the years to come with reduced budgets and pressures on NP to perform to the same standard with fewer resources.
  • It is amazing to me that police manage to serve all members of society in a way that within broader parameters they have similar responses to quetions, the biggest difference is between adults and young people but that is no surprise.
Over all this report is a ringing endorsement of the professionalism of police in England and Wales, long may it continue.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Situational Awareness - Where do criminals live?

This is a carry on from the previous discussion. Situational awareness is a location based tool that allows as police officers to have the heads up regarding dangers and policing opportunities in the area in which they are working.

I am really thinking outloud so I am allowed to disagree with myself or clarify what I have previously said once I have had time to think about things.

I think most people would agree that if a police officer is to attend a home to deal with an incident it is useful in a situational awareness sense to know if for instance a known dangerous criminal lives there or is otherwise associated with the address (girlfriend, parents, etc).

It will not surprise you to learn that criminals especially career criminals do not lead conventional livestyles so when they get arrested they try to hide where they really live from police. Now this is where things get really difficult; what if a violent dangerous criminal is under surveillance by a police team and knows that he frequents and address not recorded on the police database, should they compromise their operation to enhance the situational awareness of the patrolling officer and how is this information meant to be conveyed to the officer and how should they react to ensure this information is not compromised. This is A1 intelligence what if it is not, say from an informant, does that make a difference. Should the dessemination grading (the third 5) be honoured even when it is assessed that police officers lives are at risk.

Increased situational awareness is accompanied by new dilemas. Some may argue ignorance is bliss, treat every situation of its merits; that what we had to do in my day etc, etc. The police are looking for technology to fill the created by budget cuts, there is no higher priority than protecting the protectors.

Police Intelligence Systems

I have am very fortunate to be involved with a consortium that is working to design the next generation of police information systems. Part of this project is to give police officers relevant real time information based on their location and assignment that keeps them safe and makes them more effective in their work, whether it be catching criminals or dealing with victims. The term for this is situation awareness.

The key to this is mobile tablet devices similar to iphones or ipads (that will replace the officers note book and pen) that through GPS signals knows exactly where the officer is located and through geo-coding of  incidents knows exactly where the officer is going.

The next question is what the officer needs to know. This is where semantics come into play  - are we going to supply the officer with data, information or intelligence? I think we can first rid of the notion that we may supply the officer with data. There is no exact universally accepted definition of the word data (or even whether it should be used as a plural or singular) but "facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis" (Oxford Dictionaries) seem to be as good as any. This is not what the officer wants s/he needs stuff that is specific and location/time based.

OK here we get into more semantics. I have been taught in the police that intelligence is actionable information. This does not work for me because it misunderstands the nature of information. Information is "facts provided or learned about something or someone" (Oxford Dictionaries). Intelligence by its nature needs to be accompanied by an assessment of how likely it is to be fact. Therefore only A1 (see above) information can regarded as information the rest is intelligence. That is why I have shown the 5x5x5 intelligence grading above that I obtained here.

Fortunately there is a wealth of A1 intelligence or information available to the operational officer. This information is a by-product of the force incident, crime and welfare systems and national criminal records, warning signals and wanted/missing records. I would argue that this is the type of information the officer needs for situational awareness. Graded intelligence should only be included if there is an over-whelming officer or public safety consideration.

This is where the circle is completed. Who collects this information? The answer is the same uniform operational officer that needs it for situational awareness. And how is it collected? Through "Apps" on the mobile device that provide the officer with the situational awareness information. Why do we know that the information is geo-located accurately? Because exact GPS locations are collected through the mobile device by the reporting officer. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Do you understand crime?

I am sure that 99.999% of the UK population do not understand official crime statistics. In otherwords I am saying out of a population of about 60 million less that 600 people fully understand official crime statistics. In fact I am being generous, I would be surprised if it is more that 60. If someone were to tell me it was less than 6 I would not argue with them. Just to say I do but only because I spent 30 years in the police trying to undestand them and 4 years doing a PhD on the subject.

The graph above shows two different ways of recording burglaries in people's houses in London from May 2008 until September 2012. The blue line shows the number of police calls that were shown as 'burglary dwelling' the red line shows the number of officially recorded 'burglary dwelling' crimes. The green line shows the difference between the two figures. This is taken from and interesting new data source which can be found here

The graph here is the same data but collated by calender year with a table showing the counts. The difference between the two is almost as much as the recorded crime figure. Why are so many reported crimes not not recorded as such? What is more important the incident figure or the counted crime figure?

To answer the first one you will have to read my thesis. The second question can be answered in two ways. Counted or in other-words official police recorded crime statistics are important because that is what is used to make policy decisions by police, politicians and civil servant. But I argue that the incident figures are more important because that more closely reflect the public's perception of the nature and level of crime. The is important because peoples' perceptions affect their actions and their attitudes.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Kevin Hurley Crime Commissioner for Surrey

Congratulations to Kevin Hurley, he is the new Police Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Surrey. Our paths have crossed a few times when we both were in the Metropolitan Police Service. He is a thoroughly decent chap from a family full with police officers. Even though he is an independent whose attraction is that he is not a politician he knew that "zero tolerance" is a term that Surrey residents like and put it as his title on the ballot sheet, a very savvy bit of electioneering.
I am a Surrey resident and I would have voted for him if I knew he was standing, but I do not agree with PCCs so a no vote was the best I could do to convey this. I am glad to note though that Kevin stood to keep politics out of policing, something which of course is impossible when politicians are judged on law and order as much as any other issue when national parlaimentary elections come round. At least in Surrey we can be confident that the police will not have to jump through hoops and dance to the tune of a political motivated PCC.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

80/20 crime (again)

Usually when the 80/20 figure for crime is quoted it refers 80% of crime is committed by 20% of people (which incidently is wildly inaccurate for most types of crime - more like 99.9% of crime committed by 0.01% of people). But there is a new use.

The above is a quote from the newly published report by the HMIC entitled "Taking time for crime". It publication date of 27th September 2012 missed my thesis submission date by a couple of weeks so I could not include it. It would have been nice to do so because it supports one of the thesis' central arguments. That is that measuring police performance using crime data (where I assume the 20% comes from) gives only a partial view. The more complete view is obtained from the police incident data set where I know from the report that 80% comes from.

The report can be found here. The is a very important report because it is attempting get police forces to change focus yet again. I will comment further in future post.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Geo-policing of Neighbourhoods in Greater London

Oh yes, decided on a title in the last week. "Geo-policing of Neighbourhoods in Greater London". Here is the abstract.


The subject of this thesis is policing at a local level with regard to how performance can be measured and compared between locations to make the police more accountable to the public with the aim of increasing the public’s confidence in the police. The research is carried out within the discipline of Geographic Information Science using multidimensional, multivariable clustering and classification techniques used to create geodemographic classifications to create geo-policing classifications. The scientific study of policing that these geo-policing classifications facilitate means that the research carried out in this thesis can also be regarded as falling within the realm of the science of policing.

The research explores the causes of the mismatch of public perception of the level of crime and the information in official crime statistics that was termed the Reassurance Gap. This led to a radical shift of resources into council ward based neighbourhood policing to reduce the fear of crime and increase the public’s confidence in the police. Subsequent research has shown that the reduction in the fear of crime and the increase of the public’s confidence in the police are not directly linked. The most effective method for police to increase public confidence in themselves appears to be demonstrating that they properly understand the policing problems in a neighbourhood and that they are efficiently, effectively and fairly tackling those problems.

The research examines the use of crime maps for the public to improve police accountability and public’s confidence in the police. The research concludes that official crime statistics are not fit for purpose for local police accountability and makes the case for the use of police incident data instead. The thesis shows the utility of police incident data and creates a framework that allows policing itself rather than just the outcomes of policing to be assessed.

Update and thanks

Just to update anyone interested in what I am doing. I have finished writing my thesis and submitted it for for examination. One of my examiners is busy until Christmas so it looks like I am going to have my viva in January. I am actually quite pleased with it.

In the mean time I have got myself a job as lecturer in GIS at Kingston (Surrey) University. I am just trying to get my head around what is required for that.

It is not always easy to show people who you have thanked in the Acknowledgements of a thesis so I thought I would publish it here.


The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Collaborative Award for Science and Engineering (ESRC CASE) with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), my former employer, acting as co-sponsor. The research was made possible by data from MPS information systems facilitated by Trevor Adams. Detective Superintendent Neil Wilson, a former colleague, assisted with obtaining London Borough of Camden crime and disorder data, which was integral to the research. I am grateful to both.

I have been supported and guided throughout my research by a team of academics within the University College London Geography Department and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. Typical of this was being provided with data regarding licensed premises and other commercial premises in London by Dr Duncan Smith.

I particularly want to thank Professor Paul Longley, my principal supervisor, who has stretched and challenged me to produce better throughout the research. His guidance and friendship have been unwavering.

I have also appreciated the support and help of fellow students, most notably Daniel Lewis and James Cheshire who eased me into the world of Geographical Information System software.

I am particularly grateful to the Semeion Research Institute in Rome Italy and its Director, Professor Massimo Buscema, who introduced me to multi-dimensional, multivariable clustering techniques when I managed a project whilst I was still in the MPS. We renewed our acquaintance with during this research. The Self Organising Map (SOM) software to perform the clustering processes in Chapter 7 was written by Dr Giulia Massini; I am grateful to her and for the loan of the software.

I have friends and family to thank as well. Firstly, Janet Smith and Monica McKinnie, who became Facebook friends through our joint connection of attending the same junior school in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia and who diligently proofread, pointing out my typos and more bazaar sentence constructions.  They are amazing. My father and mother (especially my father, a professor himself and supervisor of many PhD’s) for their gentle coaxing. Thanks to my youngest sister Megan, who carried out her PhD research in parallel with me but finished before me, for not gloating. And finally I am very grateful to my wife, Vivien, who has shown unreasonable confidence in my abilities from the start and given me plenty of space and time to do my research and kept me going.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Police Information systems

This diagram is one I have devised to represent police information systems. The little stories, that I have persauded are not suitable for my thesis, that are posted below are design to explain this diagram. I hope some will find the information useful. The number of hits continues to grow on this blog much to my amazement, so I am confident that there is some interest out there.

A working day in the life safer neighbourhood team PC Khan


At 9.45 am PC Khan arrives at the locker room at the police community office which is a unit on a small trading estate which is shared by two ward safer neighbourhood teams. He switches on his radio and listens to the radio traffic as he changes into his uniform. He is particularly interested in anything that is happening on his ward as he or one of the two PCSOs on that day may not be the first officer to any incident but it will be their responsibility to deal with any matters that cannot be dealt with immediately by the response team. He walks into the office, logs onto one of the computer terminals that are free, he does not have his own computer, he hot desks with the other PCs and PCSO’s, the two sergeants try to maintain a system of their own desks and computer terminals but these are also up for grabs when they are not on duty. His life is very much ruled by his emails from supervisors, colleagues and members of the public and his calendar of his appointments. He prides himself that he knows what has been going on his beat whilst he has been off duty and has a system of searching various databases such as CRIS, CAD and CRIMINT to see what is relevant. He books on duty over the radio so the CAD operator can add him to the list of resources available for deployment. He is told there is a scheduled appointment to report burglary on his ward at 1130hrs, he says he will deal with it and gets the address and silently curses to himself, he knows that the burglary is a repeat victimisation, this is something he really needs to get to the bottom of. Last time it was just cash and a few computer games so it is likely to be kids who have done it. He decides he will walk down to the burglary address and take one of the PCSOs with him. On the way he will try to see the local park keeper to make sure that he is going to cut back the undergrowth around the trees like last year so that it is easy to see into the park from the road and hopefully discourage it being used as a place where some local youths to smoke cannabis; hopefully this will make it a safer environment for mums to bring their toddlers to use the play ground. He also needs to find time to visit one of the Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators on his ward to discuss crime prevention leaflet that that neighbourhood watch wants to put through residents doors about the recent spate of burglaries. Who knows he may even be able to nab that disqualified driver who seems to be still driving his car. He has put an information report on the PNC and created a CRIMINT entry but no luck yet.

A working day in the life of response team PC Jones

PC Jones arrives in the locker room in the basement of the police station at 13.40 hrs and changes into his uniform and clips on his personal radio on his belt. On the way upstairs he collects a charged battery and switches on his radio. His radio is now transmitting regular (at least once a minute) signals to a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) of his location. This signal is not being logged on any computer but if he pressed the emergency button on his radio the last signal of his radio will be flashed up on the screen of CAD terminals at the MPS call centre that covers his area. PC Jones knows from the duties database, Computer Aided Resource Management System (CARMS), that his posting for this month is to drive a response car and he knows there is a new one that is better than the rest so he wants to grab the keys and logbook before his colleagues. He saw it in the station yard as he walked in and sure enough the early turn driver is in the custody suite dealing with a prisoner. After a bit of banter that included a warning that there were new road works in the high street he managed to get the keys and quickly goes out to the station yard, checks over the vehicle and puts his bag of equipment inside, making sure that the early turn had taken all their stuff out. He rushes upstairs to the briefing room, arriving just in time for the late turn parade.

The parade is being taken by the section sergeant with about 15 of PC Jones’s colleagues present with the Duty Officer Inspector Shetty watching on. There are no surprises on the postings; he is posted to XX21 with PC Smith as the operator, refreshments at 6pm. The sergeant talks through the power-point briefing that has been prepared by the Borough Intelligence Unit (BIU) which has pictures of suspected active criminals and their modus operandi, maps of crime hotspots and officer safety instructions and advice. A short discussion takes place about missing child that the team had dealt with the previous day and which PC Smith had completed the necessary paperwork that included a Merlin entry and a referral to social services via the Borough’s community safety unit. Even though the parents had come into the police station to report the nine year old girl missing a CAD incident was created because it involved a number of urgent enquiries. Inspector Shetty thanked the team for their good co-ordinated work and said that fortunately the child had been found at a friend’s house by night duty. The parade ends and the section sergeant rings through the postings to the CAD operator at the MPS call centre so that the CAD system can be updated with who has been posted to which vehicle (by call-sign) and those that have been assigned to walk beats. She enquires which safer neighbourhood police officers and police community support officers are on-duty so she knows what resources are available if the need arises.

PC Jones is just settling into thinking there is time to have a quick cup of tea and a check of his emails when a call comes on the radio, “fight in progress, knife involved” and a location given as Acacia Avenue W13 outside The Eagle Public House. He acknowledges the call on his radio and shouts out to PC Smith and they both run down to the station yard and PC Jones jumps in the driver’s of the vehicle. PC Smith jumps into the front passenger seat and switches on the mobile data terminal. The mobile data terminal now if linked up to the CAD system and is transmitting GPS signals of the vehicles location, speed and direction every 15 seconds. This is logged and retrievable at a later stage. The call they are going to has been recorded on the CAD system by a CAD operator after a member of the public who has witnessed the fight has phone 999. The call has been graded “I” which means it is an emergency which warrants using blue lights and sirens. The target time is 12 minutes, which is measured as from the time the call was made. The operator has shown the type of call as “1” meaning violence against person and “69” meaning suspect armed and enters “knife” in comments field, the location is entered as “o/s Eagle Pub, Acacia Ave, W13; the computer confirms that as a unique location in London and automatically provides northing and easting coordinates of the centroid of 250 metre by 250 metre grid square that the Eagle Public House is located in. The callers details are enter and XX21 is shown assigned along with X4 and XX3. The free text of the incident is updated with the description of the suspects. PC Jones and Smith arrive at the scene of the Eagle Public House, there is no fight going on outside. PC Smith says “on scene” on her radio for the information of other units and the CAD operator who then updates CAD. Both PC Jones and Smith go into the Pub and look round, no fight. PC Jones says “All quiet on arrival” on his radio and then asks the CAD operator to phone back the caller asking them to make themselves known to police at the scene. This is all updated on the CAD system. The caller is found who explained that there had been a bad tempered row between three men who had just come out the public house; it looked like they were fighting over something that could have been a knife. Meanwhile the crew of X4 have stopped a person who meets the description of one of the suspects and are searching him for the knife. Another witness then is found by PC Jones who says all three men were seen to drive off in a vehicle and supplied the registration mark. PC Smith does a PNC check of the vehicle and obtains the registered owner details; there is an information report saying the owner of the vehicle is a disqualified driver. This information is circulated on the radio by PC Smith and unit is assigned to attend the home address. The end result of this incident is that the fight outside the Eagle Pub was for the car key, which was mistaken for a knife by the witness. The disqualified driver was not driving the car when it arrived at the owner’s house with police waiting. X4 let the person they stopped go after completing a search form, which would later be entered on the Stops database. The incident is resulted with “1” to show that the violence against the person had occurred and “77” entered to show that no offences had been disclosed; a comment “no knife” is also entered.

PC Jones and PC Smith attend various other incidents in their day’s work including a burglary for which PC Jones enters a crime report on CRIS. PC Smith arrests a shoplifter who it turns out has given a false name. The true name is identified after fingerprints are taken and reveals when a PNC names check is done that the person is wanted for failing to attend court on assault charges. There is a credit card in the arrested person’s possession that requires further investigation regarding his ownership.  The custody computer is updated by the custody sergeant, case papers completed, wanted missing report cancelled on the PNC, CRIS record updated regarding the assault and a new entry regarding the shoplifting: the credit card will be entered on the property computer and PC Jones helps by entering a CRIMINT report regarding the false name that the prisoner gave and tried to use the credit card to verify it. Lastly PC Jones obtains authorisation to claim overtime for himself and PC Smith so that all these information systems can be properly updated!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

New Venn diagram for Orison

Orison left me a note saying he was fascinated by my Venn diagrams, but I have progressed. This is the one I have included in my thesis. Almost finished.

I have looked at the statistics. I am still getting over 50 visits a day and I have not published much for almost a year. Once I have submitted my thesis I intend to start publishing again. I have a lot to write about.