Upwardly mobile

A new survey shows that the public wants more technology in the hands of police.

Nov 19, 2014
By Paul Jacques
L-R: Alison Lowe, John Robins, chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, and Mayor Tracy Brabin

New research shows most people think the police could be doing a better job through more use of technology, such as mobile devices. They not only see digital solutions as essential to crime-fighting, but also want to see wider use of digital channels as a means to communicate with the police.

Eight out of ten people questioned in the global survey said that they believe police could improve service delivery with modern technology and said they were happy with different technologies, such as predictive software, security cameras, wearable technologies and mobile devices, being used.

The research – How can digital police solutions better serve citizens’ expectations? – by the management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company Accenture, questioned 4,000 people from eight countries – Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the US – to identify trends in public sentiment around policing.

Most believed in the potential of digital technology to defeat crime (88 per cent) while 77 per cent said that technology could be used to prevent crime.

More than three-quarters of respondents said they want digital interactions instead of, or in addition to, face-to-face interactions with police and 72 per cent said they were likelier today to use social media to contact police than they were one year ago. Seventy-four per cent said they would use a mobile app created by their local police force to report crimes or obtain information about crimes in their area.

The new report follows similar research conducted by Accenture in 2012. While it shows a greater acceptance of technology in policing, it also highlights that police forces still need to grow their digital presence and invest in engaging citizens to close the gap between expectations and perceived reality.

In the latest survey, 96 per cent of those questioned said the public should play a role in police services. Coupled with the fact that two-thirds of respondents said they wanted more interaction with their local police, the report says “this public enthusiasm offers a golden opportunity to rebalance responsibilities for public safety through greater involvement from local communities”.

“What is more, 79 per cent of citizens who expressed an interest in more interaction said that they wanted the interaction to be digital (such as social media, email or websites), either instead of, or in addition to, face-to-face,” said the report.

‘Digital’ was identified as a vital crime-fighting tool to not only help investigate crimes and catch criminals, but also prevent crime.

“And since 79 per cent of citizens said crime prevention is a key police service (consistent with the 2012 findings), then police solutions that use digital technologies are clearly at the forefront of managing a top priority, according to the public,” added the report. “Perhaps this pro-digital stance is unsurprising in a social culture where ‘always on, always aware’ connectivity is the norm. What the survey findings highlight, however, is that certain technologies are considered fundamental to communication and interaction between citizens and the police, in particular mobile devices.”

Eighty-nine per cent of those questioned said they were comfortable with mobile devices being used to help police officers with information on the move, 88 per cent were at ease with the police using predictive technologies (to assist with crime patterns and prevention), 83 per cent said they were comfortable with the use of security cameras and 80 per cent endorsed the use of wearable devices, such as body-worn video cameras.

The report found ‘digital’ could also be a valid route for citizens seeking greater information sharing: “When asked for their views on whether they receive enough information from their local law enforcement agency, 68 per cent of citizens said they do not.

In a climate of information overload, police forces need to think carefully about how best to improve the information deficit – and, once again, citizens suggest di

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