Tackling the Cloud for Better Criminal Evidence Gathering

Last month a new report, Bobbies on the net: a police workforce for the digital age was launched by think tank Reform. The report has called for additional funding for digital technology, in a bid to improve the digital capabilities in policing. While many forces are already deploying assets such as bodycams, for many the reality is that these technologies are sitting among siloed, legacy IT systems. This reduces the ability to deliver information and intelligence to officers where and when it’s needed.
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Evidence is the backbone of policing and as crimes continue to grow in complexity, it’s time for police to look to the cloud to help manage the increase in digital evidence. As multimedia becomes abundant, evidence such as images and videos from mobile phones, CCTV, GPS data, SMS and Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) play a greater part in criminal investigations.

Moving away from traditional IT

As public sector budgets continue to be stretched, cloud technologies can provide police with new, more cost-effective and flexible ways to manage investigations and operations. By utilizing existing IT infrastructures and internet connections, police forces can integrate cloud technologies and realize valuable benefits. Whether it’s sharing data and coordinating with other departments on a local, regional and national scale or tapping into analytical tools – cloud-based technology is inevitable and police forces should be embracing the opportunities it presents.

Efficient evidence

With around 5 million CCTV cameras in the UK, collecting footage can be a timely task for police officers and often requires them to physically drive to the crime scene – inspecting the area for cameras. Once identified, officers will need to physically download the footage and take it back to the station. Although CCTV evidence is valuable, the sourcing and recovering of the footage is an outdated, inefficient process which racks up hours of investigators’ time.

However, cloud technologies are well placed to help the police use this valuable evidence to its fullest potential, streamlining the collection process and utilizing officers’ time effectively. For instance, deploying a digital evidence management system (DEMs) can consolidate the evidence collection process. Cloud-based systems like this have the potential to improve the efficiency of the justice system by allowing businesses to register their CCTV cameras, enabling investigators to map out the locations of available footage about a crime scene. This gives businesses the opportunity to share evidence but also allows police forces to start their investigations immediately, drastically cutting the amount of time spent collecting physical media.

Empowering the public

It’s not just businesses that have a valuable role to play in crowdsourcing digital evidence – members of the public can also provide police investigators with vital information. At a time when smartphones are ubiquitous, images and video footage captured by the public are an important component in case solving. But how do police forces manage this information?

In the same way, police forces would use the cloud to gather CCTV footage; they should also be looking at solutions which also allow the public to securely submit photos and videos captured on their smartphones. This form of evidence gathering is vital in the wake of major incidents as multimedia files can be collected and stored effectively. Without flooding servers with vast amounts of information in a situation when hundreds, or possibly thousands of people have documented the scene.

Outsourcing the evidence room

Security is a top priority for every police force but it can also be a hurdle to adopting cloud-based systems. While many police forces are already using or considering moving to the cloud, it’s important to remember that confidential and sensitive data lives at the heart of the evidence room, whether physical or virtual. Traditionally evidence rooms located in police buildings are well protected and require physical entry; digital evidence, on the other hand, can be accessed from anywhere and can be perceived as an increased risk. Using a cloud-based system that uses data encryption and multiple layers of security can help combat fears and help police forces release the benefits of expansive storage at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, cloud technologies can equip IT teams with advanced administrative controls to manage and monitor access, permissions and usage.

But as more evidence becomes digital and police forces look to store the deluge of data from dashcams and body-worn video, the traditional evidence room no longer looks fit for purpose. With cloud storage, files can be located centrally and this assists police officers in accessing the right information when needed. Additionally, as video files take up substantially more storage bandwidth than other file types, the scalability of the cloud allows storage to grow with the volume of media files received.

The road to cloud adoption

With cloud computing already delivering efficiency and cost savings to organizations across the private sector, it’s time for local governments and police forces to realize the benefits the cloud can bring.

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