Met Police should introduce predictive crime mapping and social media, says report

Crime in the capital is higher than it could be due to decades of poorly planned technology investment which has left the Metropolitan Poice with out-of-date, ineffective and overly-expensive systems, a new report from the London Assembly has said (view press release).

Compared to other forces, both at home and abroad, the Budget and Performance Committee warns the Met has not done enough to bring in new technologies – like predictive crime mapping, mobile handheld devices and social media – to make working practices more efficient and reduce crime. Smart policing, by the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee argues that, faced with a 20 per cent cut in spending over the next three years, the Met can no longer afford to spend 85 per cent of its ICT budget on maintaining old technology, some of which dates back to the 1970s.

The force has a total of 750 separate systems, 70 per cent are already redundant, rising to 90 per cent by 2015. The Committee says it recognises that the Met is now aware of the scale of the challenge it faces to improve its technology, but warns that the force could have been more efficient, and crime lower, had the Met got to grips with its ICT earlier.

John Biggs AM, Chair of the Budget and Performance Committee said: “The Met has been paying over the odds for technology for years – much of which has gone on maintaining a collection of out-dated and increasingly inefficient systems put together over the last 40 years. This has got to change.

“Every other person has a smartphone in their pocket and yet the Met are only just starting to look at rolling out similar tools. They should also be working on predictive crime mapping, like that used in Los Angeles, to get officers in the right place at the right time to deter criminals and reassure the public. “At the end of the day, this kind of investment costs money and with plans to cut overall spending by 20 per cent over the next three years, MOPAC urgently needs to determine what resources will be available to the Met to improve its technology. The force simply cannot afford to get this wrong again.” “Furthermore, if investment in ICT can improve productivity, which it clearly can, then hopefully we can move beyond the seemingly endless Mexican stand-off over police numbers and instead focus on overall capacity. Not cutting numbers, but making spending decisions based on the safest possible outcome from the resources we have. Such an approach is long overdue.”

The report highlights three areas where the Met could do more: mobile technology, predictive crime mapping and social media engagement. The Met are planning to introduce up to 20,000 mobile devices to officers over in the next year. The report welcomes the investment, which it says, if implemented properly, could have the potential to greatly increase the amount of information available to officers on the beat and save time filing reports.

The report highlights the success of predictive crime mapping in Los Angeles, a computer programme which uses historic crime statistics and other factors – such as the weather – to predict the areas where crime is most likely to occur. A six month trial in one LA neighbourhood showed crime rates decreased by 12 per cent and vehicle crime by 25 per cent.

The Committee also calls on the Met to do more to make the most of social media, like Twitter, which offer a cheap and effective platform to reach out to communities. The report calls for coherent polices and guidance to enable officers to make the most of social media to interact with the public. The Committee recognises that the Met needs significant investment to introduce new technology and is calling on the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to make it a priority to establish how much funding is needed and where it will come from. It goes on to warn that, 18 months after its establishment, MOPAC still does not have a director responsible for overseeing the Met’s new approach to ICT.

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