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The Police – not online with the public?

Artikkelen tilhører Internet, security and privacy, postet 8. aug 2014

Hilde Lovett
KONTAKTPERSON:

Hilde Lovett

– At any given time, four out of five Norwegians carry a smartphone with a camera and GPS. By taking advantage of this fact, the police could benefit from shorter response times, improved situational awareness, and closer contact with the public, says Tore Tennøe, director of Teknologirådet.

The Norwegian police is in the midst of an important transitional period. It received a harsh verdict from the 22 July commission’s report for not taking proper advantage of the potential in information and communication technology. Teknologirådets new report highlights how smartphones, social media and big data analyses can revolutionize operational policing. Opportunities the police is still far from taking full advantage of.

– Teknologirådet is worried that the ongoing national police reform is too focused on organizational issues and how many police districts we should have, and too little on becoming part of the information revolution, as the 22 July commission pointed out, says Tennøe.

The Smartphone is key

Four out of five Norwegian citizens carry a smartphone and use it constantly. And it is so much more than a phone – making phone calls is only the fifth most used function on smartphones. The ministry of justice and public security has recently decided to implement emergency messaging on SMS within the year, at least for those with a hearing impairment.

– That is not enough, states Tennøe.

– Norway has some of the most advanced mobile phone users in the world, yet contacting the emergency central works pretty much the same way it did when we only had landline phones. The police have to start taking advantage of the fact that most of us have a phone with a camera and GPS, he says.

The public is an important resource

The public is already a key collaborative partner when incidents happen. The smartphone makes it possible to make even better use of the public as a source of information.

– The public is often the first to arrive at a crime scene. The benefits for both the police and the public could be substantial, if the public had an easy way to communicate digital information to the police, and provided the police has the requisite systems in place to receive and process this information continuously, says Robindra Prabhu, project leader at Teknologirådet.

A recent poll conducted by Teknologirådet shows that people are more than willing to share digital information with the police when incidents occur. 77 percent are willing to share information such as pictures and video in order to assist the police in improving situational awareness if they arrive at the scene of an incident before the police, or if they witness a criminal act, shows the recent poll conducted by Teknologirådet.

 112 should be an app

One way to facilitate sharing with the police is to develop an emergency app. Teknologirådets study shows that 48 percent of respondents wish they could contact emergency centrals through a mobile app that would automatically send important information for them.

– Teknologirådet recommends that the police develop an emergency app which makes it easy to send text, images, sound, video, GPS-location and personal information to 112. The public would benefit from an improved and more flexible contact with the emergency centrals, whilst the police would benefit from more information which in turn could strengthen decision-making capacity before they arrive at the scene, says Prabhu.

The police should monitor social media

The Norwegian police is using social media very successfully to share information with the public. The operational central in Oslo, for example, has a very popular Twitter account with 131 000 followers – while they only follow 15. It is important that social media not only be used to disseminate information to the public, but also to receive valuable information from the public, states Teknologirådet’s report.

– Teknologirådet believes the police should monitor important words and expressions on social media using automated tools. Such tools can not only provide an overview of a developing situation, but also help identify and secure important information on unforeseen incidents early on, says Prabhu.

Social Media as an alarm

People use their phones frequently to share information on social media, also when something dramatic and unexpected happens. A sudden increase in posts on social media could be a warning that something significant has happened. This is what the American Geological Survey took advantage of in order to make a system for earthquake alerts. Within 60 seconds of an earthquake the automatic monitoring of Twitter will “register“ the quake from Twitter feeds, as well as where and when it happened. By comparison, traditional sensor based alarms take anywhere from 2-20 minutes.

Better and faster analysis

Especially during major events it can be difficult to get a proper handle on the large amounts of digital information such as emergency messages, tips and social media use. The police in the Netherlands have started using tools that automatically scan information from social media, and extracts and sorts the information that might be relevant for emergency centrals during major events.

– When every second counts, it is important that relevant information is not lost in noise. The technology to automatically filter and analyse the digital information flow is becoming available. Such tools are successfully employed by the police in countries such as the Netherlands and the USA, says Prabhu.

The Boston Marathon Bombing is an example of how the police can gather large amounts of pictures and video from a crime scene, and put this information together in a way that makes it possible to quickly map out the scene and improve their understanding of the situation.

– The emergency centrals are about to undergo an important revamping that has been long overdue. It is important that they are equipped with technology which will enable the public as an active resource in future policing, says Prabhu.

Background

This report is the first in a series of three reports about how technology is changing police work that Teknologirådet is publishing during 2014.

Teknologirådets secretariat is completing this project with support from an independent expert group.

The expert group members are:

  • Gisle Hannemyr, Lecturer, Department of Informatics, The University of Oslo
  • Håkon Wium Lie, CTO, Opera Software and member of Teknologirådet
  • Silvija Seres, CEO, TechnoRocks and member of Teknologirådet
  • Inger Marie Sunde, Associate Professor, Research Department, The Norwegian Police University College

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