A London Assembly report claims the Metropolitan Police are being forced to rely on “out-of-date, ineffective and overly-expensive” technology, which is impacting on their ability to cut crime.
The ‘Smart Policing’ study from the Budget and Performance Committee says Scotland Yard’s ability to solve crimes is being hindered as their IT systems are based on 1970’s technology. It claims that, of 750 separate systems used by the Met, some 70 per cent are already “redundant” and this will rise to 90 per cent by 2015.
The committee warns that the force could have been more efficient, and London’s crime rate could have been lower, if the Met had improved its technology earlier. The force is said to have recognised the “scale of problem” and has made plans to improve its use of technology, despite facing budget cuts.
John Biggs, chairman of the Budget and Performance Committee, admits the combination of poor technology and shrinking budgets means it will be “difficult” to implement any upgrade. He added that delays must be avoided however, to ensure the Met have access to the best technology to help them day-to-day.
He said: “Poor ICT systems prevent police officers from getting on with their jobs. It is not acceptable that it can take officers up to 30 minutes to log on to a computer. And having to re-enter the same information in ten different systems wastes time and creates opportunities for error.”
The report highlights key areas in which the Met can do more to improve their technology usage, such as mobile technology. The force is planning to introduce 20,000 mobile devices to officers in the next year to increase the amount of information available and save time filing reports.
Discussing the current situation, Biggs said: “Many Londoners now have smartphones in their pockets, giving instant access to travel information, bar and restaurant reviews, news and much more.
“Yet a police officer has to radio back to base to find out simple background information about, for example, previous crime reports or information about particular suspects. It seems incredible that officers have this modern technology at home yet when they arrive at work they take a step back in time.”
Predictive crime mapping was also pinpointed as a tool that would enable the Met to reduce crime and allocate resources more efficiently. The system, which uses historic crime data to predict where crimes are likely to occur in the future, has been trialled in four boroughs and the results are currently being evaluated.
The Committee has also called on the Met to make more use of social media to interact with the public. It highlighted the helicopter team’s Twitter account @MPSinthesky – which has over 50,000 followers – as a good example of what can be achieved with social media.