Generating police innovation

By | News & Politics
Each of the 43 police departments in England and Wales will benefit from the innovation fund this year. Image credit - @ Number 10 via flickr.com

Every police department in England and Wales will receive a share of a £50 million Home Office fund for projects aimed at transforming policing through innovation and collaboration.

Policing Minister Mike Penning has said, “I am delighted that every police unit in the country showed such a positive, forward-thinking attitude and came to us with new ideas and ways of working. It meant we could allocate £50 million to some really innovative projects and I am already looking forward to visiting forces and seeing the results.”

The successful schemes include investment in body-worn camera, groundbreaking forensics techniques and joint working between the police and fire service. Units were awarded money for new approaches to tackle anti-social behaviour and rural crime; a project to help young runaways; and work to improve the way the police interact with people with mental health issues.

Each of the 43 police departments in England and Wales may benefit from the fund this year. Among the most innovative of the 85 proposals to receive funding this time were, a joint bid of £431,000 by Nottinghamshire and Lancashire Police to reduce the processing time for a DNA profile from four or five days to two hours. Eight units including Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire, the Met, Hampshire, Durham, City of London, Merseyside and North Wales, will share more than £4 million to spend on body worn camera technology. The Metropolitan Police successfully bid for £113,000 to help develop a new spray, which may be able to quickly identify body fluids at crime scenes.

On the whole, misdemeanors have decreased by more than 10 per cent under the current government. Many leading experts believe the police may improve and do their job even better by encouraging them to embrace new technology and build on ideas coming from the grass roots. The Police Innovation Fund is allocated every 12 months and is up to £50 million. Earlier this year, the Home Office also made a precursor fund of £20 million available to Police Commissioners.

A record 14% decrease in the last 12 months has taken crime levels in England and Wales to their best level for 33 years, according to the Office for National Statistics. It has decreased across most types of offences, according to the authoritative police survey of England and Wales with the largest decreases in the 12 months to March including a 10% decrease in theft.

The figures also show that the number of police officers has decreased by a further 1,674 over the past year to 127,909, bringing the total decrease in police numbers to 15,825 since 2010. Ministers linked the decrease in police numbers to the decrease in misdemeanors, saying that fewer officers were needed on the street.

Notable projects receiving funding this year also include £6 million to the Metropolitan Police Service for a mobile IT and £2.9m to Nottinghamshire for delivery of a four force interoperable ICT platform for crime, intelligence, case file and custody. In addition, £1.8 million to South Yorkshire and Humberside police for enhancement of both units’ existing mobile IT and £413,000 to Suffolk for the creation of a shared fire/police. There is also £544,500 to Surrey for shared Business Intelligence platform with Sussex police to allow local and cross-force data analysis.

Looking towards the key factor driving the sustained decrease in misdemeanors there is limited consensus among criminologists. Earlier this week, Cardiff University researchers highlighted the decrease in heavy drinking and rising alcohol prices as a factor; competing theories include links to the economy and the removal of lead in petrol.

In London, the number of offences committed fell 6% over the past year. The latest figures show the number of incidents reported to police by businesses in London fell from just under 115,000 in 2011-12 to just over 103,000 in 2012-13. The number of crimes in Thames Valley fell by more than 4,000 last years, according to police figures released last week. The statistics were first published in April, however, they have now been verified by the Home Office and compared to the other units in England and Wales.

What ideas might be implemented to assist police departments in England and Wales? 

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