Public sector cuts are making police forces rethink their approaches to fighting crime. Avon and Somerset Constabulary has had to make savings in excess of £60 million since 2010, and has turned to the Qlik Sense analytics platform to mitigate the impact of its reduced budget.
"We've had to save a lot of money and we still need to save a lot of money," says head of performance Sean Price. "What this technology yields is that opportunity to be able to do things quite different in the constabulary."
The force uses Qlik Sense to analyse officer availability, location and objectives against public demand. In the command centre, the predictive analytics are visualised on big screens filled with live updates that feed into key tasking processes and officer briefing sessions.
"The governance of the organisation from the board level right the way through to individual officers is very much being driven now by this technology," says Price. "We've seen a significant number of suspects being arrested from it, and also more positive outcomes."
They include improved timeliness to incidents and better court handling figures and better utilisation rates through improved staff availability.
How Qlik works
The constabulary's in-house development team has designed a number of different apps covering various aspects of policing that are then integrated into the Qlik platform.
They include a crime management reporting app that visualises performance, workload and resourcing, an allocation management app showing the frequency and location of crimes, a road safety app that predicts collision risk and a supervisor’s app that updates the crime elements every twenty minutes.
It takes roughly two weeks to develop each app, which feature a dashboard and series of pages displaying the data. The results are hard-wired into the constabulary's business intelligence and the information is used to achieve the key objectives contained in the policing crime plane.
"It's quite a small outlay for a very transformational approach in the organisation and it's something that's very replicable in any public sector organisation," says Price.
“The way that Qlik works is that you can bring in a lot of data sets from different sources and stage and blend them and then present them back.
"For example, we've done things where it can save a unit four staff a year in terms of timing because what it's doing is it's searching all the databases, assessing that information, bringing it all together and then presenting it."
The platform has the potential for massive savings. Analysing offender profiles and the opportunities around intervening early, for example, would previously involve a massive amount of work. The offender management application that replaced it has proved far more efficient.
"What we have is a predictive model scoring risk all the time of those offenders," says Price.
Qlik then conducts automated profiling to visually display the location of the offences, and detailed additional intelligence on the individuals including their harm over time, their associates, where they live and whether they're wanted in connection with a crime. The platform creates an automatic profile of the individual combined with a prioritisation of risk that determines the response of police.
"That was something that officers never got before, so that's transformational in itself," says Price. "It's a very new way of doing our business, doing it in a much more efficient, effective way."
The growing reliance on technology to guide policing is a subject of increasing controversy. The constabulary attempted to allay concerns over using predictive analytics to anticipate offender risk before a crime is committed by clearing the system through an independent ethics committee.
"They were reassured that actually we're doing things that we do anyway in more traditional ways, but we're just making them more automated or more easy to assimilate and view," Price explains.
Qlik is mobile-enabled to support remote use, which allowed Price to use it on his day's journey from Bristol to Durham.
"I've been doing critical business using those applications today feeding critical forms of information to our chief officer team on certain things that they're very interested in, and i'm able to do that in the car on the way up," he says.
“There’s a lot of interactive opportunities: clicking on the maps, making lasso selections on the map to highlight certain things. As soon as you click on anything, everything changes, so [if] you're looking at a particular type of incident that occurred today, when you click on that everything else changes around that. It’s all dynamic; it all adjusts to the selection that you do."
His team has also developed a Qlik training app with an interactive video guiding users through the basics, and another app for usage that analyses the number of users and frequency of use to reveal the practices of specific user groups.
Pathway to adoption
Avon and Somerset Constabulary conducted a pilot of Qlik Sense last summer to see how the technology could be used in the control room environment.
The pilot proved that the platform was effective for the wide needs of one of the largest police forces in the UK, with approximately 6,000 people working for the organisation across both inner city and rural areas.
"It culturally transformed the way we do our business [by] making information very visible in the organisation that we couldn’t see before and allowing everyone to see that same information," says Price.
The analytics have been used to better manage deployments allowing police to get to significantly more jobs every day. It also reveals threat harm and risk environment more clearly to form a prioritised list of risks in real time that more effectively guides actions.
Procurement of the system was completed last autumn, and it's been rolled out to around 900 active users since then with 150 of them using it per day. Between 80-90 percent of local supervisors have used it in the last 28 days. Price says the platform has been a hit with both developers and users.
"It was a bit of a hit with our developers to develop for, and that's quite important when you're working in a resource-constrained, budget-constrained environment," he says. "Some people have said it's the best technology we've seen in policing."