By August 18, 2011

BlackBerry helping the UK Police fight crime on our streets

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With the recent riots taking place across the UK, Research in Motion have been getting some pretty negative press due to rioters using BlackBerry Messenger as one form of communication. With the BlackBerry being so popular these days of course BBM will be used, but it will not have been the only form of communication for these thugs. If the BlackBerry didn’t have such a huge market share in the UK then other applications would have got the publicity.

But this article isn’t about that. What interests me is that although the Police are getting stick from members of the press, it is the Police themselves that are using the BlackBerry solution to make policing the streets more efficient.

Several UK Police Forces now use the BlackBerry solution routinely and others are currently trialing it.

As you can see below it is not only specific Police applications that are in use by our Police. They too are jumping on the social networking band wagon.

 

Chief Inspector Scott Green, South Yorkshire Police, said:

“At South Yorkshire Police, we encourage certain officers who have undergone appropriate training to use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as BlackBerry messaging services including email and BBM, to engage with, respond to, reassure and raise awareness of policing activity amongst the community in South Yorkshire.  This approach helps our officers listen to the public and provide instant, real-time information and updates about policing operations, both on a day to day basis, as well as around significant local events.”

 

“Deploying the BlackBerry solution at South Yorkshire Police has demonstrated the value that mobile technology can provide police forces.”

 

UK police forces are working with BlackBerry smartphones to increase productivity amongst officers, enabling them to spend more time on the streets and less time in the station. Across the UK, forces using the BlackBerry platform are collectively making savings of over £112 million. These savings are being made by forces using BlackBerry smartphones and a variety of applications that enable them to improve efficiency, from accessing and updating records on the move to taking photos as an instant record of a crime scene or suspect.

Graham Baker, Senior Manager of UK public sector at Research In Motion (RIM), manufacturers of the BlackBerry smartphone, comments: “Our police customers are seeing impressive savings, no matter where they are based or what their level of personnel. Given the recent announcement by the Home Secretary to cut budgets in the police service, solutions that drive efficiency savings are making a significant contribution to the future success of police forces.”

Example of police forces that have generated efficiency improvements by deploying BlackBerry platform include:

Bedfordshire Police
Bedfordshire Police has been working with BlackBerry smartphones for over four years. It identified the need for a mobile data solution that could provide everyday police data from the Police National Computer (PNC) to officers in the community, without the need to occupy the radio network or take up the time of its operators. Ensuring that the BlackBerry project met and exceeded the requirements and expectations of frontline officers was of paramount importance to its success. An independent study showed the project increased the efficiency of the force: 82% of officers thought that the BlackBerry solution assisted them in doing their job and 75% said that it would matter to them if the force took away their BlackBerry smartphone. In fact the force experienced a 10% increase in the time officers spent patrolling the streets.

West Yorkshire Police
Another police force that is using the BlackBerry solution is West Yorkshire Police. It wanted to increase the visible police presence on the street by enabling crime reporting and work on prosecution files to take place out of the station and on the move. By deploying BlackBerry smartphones, complete with secure password and encryption to provide remote access to the Police National Computer, police presence on the streets has improved and officer productivity increased.

South Yorkshire Police
South Yorkshire Police has implemented an application which enables officers to access real-time police information and records on a BlackBerry smartphone when out on patrol, improving performance, efficiency and visibility of policing in South Yorkshire. Mobile data has streamlined working practices for staff at South Yorkshire Police. A business analysis found that at least 27 steps have been removed from the start of an officer’s typical shift, such as waiting for a desktop PC after a briefing. This, allows officers to leave the station quicker and be out in the community.

Baker concludes: “We have tens of thousands of devices being used by police officers around the UK and every device delivers efficiency benefits to the officer that uses it through a host of applications that have been specifically designed for those in the police sector. For example, officers are also using BlackBerry smartphones to access warrant information and DVLA databases, meaning they can make arrests on the move without checking back with base. By working with our police customers and offering our solution to forces not yet using BlackBerry, we expect to offer further significant savings on top of those already identified.”

 

“BlackBerry Smartphones are an effective, multi-discipline, communication tool that allows officers to stay informed and in touch when they are out on the beat.”

Below is a case study that South Yorkshire Police have conducted:

West Yorkshire Police is the fifth largest police force in the UK responsible for the protection of 2.1 million people. Comprised of eleven divisions, the force covers an area with a stark mix of rural and urban communities. It is one of only five metropolitan forces in England encompassing the large conurbations of Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield.
West Yorkshire Police undertook two pilot programs in 2002. The first focused on providing mobile office capabilities to 30 chief officers. As part of the experiment, Paul Friday, Head of Information Systems at West Yorkshire Police, only gave each user ten minutes of initial training in order to see how easy to use the device would be. The trial was so successful that soon every department in the West Yorkshire Police force could make the case for mobile office capability through BlackBerry.

West Yorkshire Police quickly realized multiple benefits from the BlackBerry solution including:
. Improved police presence on the streets
. Increased officer productivity by providing access to cases and reducing
the need to continually return to the station to file reports
. Increased value of a single mobile device for data and voice
. Low training requirements
. Compliance with national policing strategies and security needs

For the second pilot, which looked at mobile access to the Police National Computer, West Yorkshire Police considered a trial with a different wireless device. However, BlackBerry was so well received that they chose to investigate using it for both projects in order that only one device would need to be supported.

 

In August 2001, the Home Office commissioned a study entitled “Diary of a Police Officer” with the aim of gaining a fuller understanding of what is involved in the ‘typical’ shift of a police officer. The goal was to identify ways to free-up officers’ time so that they could perform more reassurance policing – increasing the police’s visibility to the public. The study revealed that police officers were spending almost as much time in the police stations (43 percent of their time) as they were on the streets.
Among the report’s conclusions was the recommendation that police forces should look to exploit mobile technology. This would provide operational officers with access to data held on the national crime database, the Police National Computer (PNC), to allow crime reporting and work on prosecution files to take place out of the station. Following on from this report, the National Police Mobile Information Strategy was developed, giving regulations and best practices for forces looking to implement mobile technology.
Based on this report West Yorkshire Police started to look for a mobile solution, which would give police on the beat access to the PNC using a wireless handheld. The solution would complement the established Airwave digital radio services. A secondary priority was to be able to provide a mobile office capability (including email, telephone and diary access) to staff that needed to work away from the station. All of West Yorkshire Police’s BlackBerry handhelds are voice and data activated to address the need for mobile office capability. The majority of users have handed back their mobile phones, preferring to use BlackBerry handheld for their voice calls.
BlackBerry – an intelligent way to police
The low training requirements for BlackBerry, and the way it was well received by staff, was valuable to West Yorkshire Police. It meant that the technology was accessible to all because of the ease of use and it could be quickly rolled out with minimal training support.
Along with ease of use, a second criteria was selecting a solution which would be robust enough to survive rough treatment in scenarios such as a street chase. Paul Friday, Head of Information Systems for West Yorkshire Police testified, “put it this way, I did the ‘waist drop to concrete test’ with a BlackBerry handheld, and it passed! Very few of the BlackBerry handhelds we have issued have been returned because they have been dropped or thrown around and they have definitely taken a battering.”
West Yorkshire Police also needed security. They wanted to be able to guarantee that in the event of a handheld loss, the information stored on it could not be easily accessed. West Yorkshire Police enforced a number of security processes, including a strict password policy on its BlackBerry handhelds. Every time the handheld is returned to its holster, it automatically locks and a password is needed to access any information. If a handheld is lost, officers can use a 24/7 help desk number to report the loss and within minutes the help desk can bar the handheld from accessing the server and disable the connection.
Reaping the Fruits of BlackBerry
The BlackBerry solution has helped to increase police presence on the streets in Yorkshire by removing the need for officers to continually return to the station to file reports. It has also helped to increase officer productivity as they can now access and feedback case information while on the move.
Critically, the nature of the BlackBerry solution also enables West Yorkshire Police to easily comply with national policing strategies. The national police mobile information strategy stipulates that all mobile data has to be independent of terminal. With its BlackBerry Mobile Data Services (MDS) browser-based application deployment, BlackBerry is an obvious match for compliance. Information on BlackBerry also needs to comply with the Community Security Policy, which combines the British Standard on Information Security Management and the Government Protective Marking Scheme. The secure encryption offered by BlackBerry met all of these requirements.

Overall, the BlackBerry-equipped officers have had a very positive response from the public. “Everyone wants to see their police force employing forward thinking techniques for policing. They see it in films, and it makes them feel safe to know we are always looking to stay ahead of the game,” said Friday.
The Benefits
“The public has responded well to BlackBerry,” said Paul Friday, Head of Information Systems, West Yorkshire Police. “And, it is helping us to do our jobs more effectively.”
West Yorkshire Police continue to grow their BlackBerry solution and expand on the existing list of benefits which includes:
. Improved police presence on the streets
. Increased officer productivity by providing access to cases and reducing the need to
continually return to the station to file reports
. Increased value of a single mobile device for data and voice
. Low training requirements
. Compliance with national policing strategies and security needs

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So although the thugs that recently looted our shops and caused havoc on the streets may have used Blackberry’s and other platforms to arrange gatherings, it is also our Police Forces that are benefiting from using BlackBerry.

With the UK government cutting funding to our Police Forces it is essential that the officers on the street have the tools and technology to maximize their time and therefore provide the public with the best service possible.

With most UK Police Forces now having neighborhood policing teams I can really see the BlackBerry solution bridging the gap between the public and the Police. If more of these teams are using BlackBerry Messenger and Twitter it will strengthen the bonds between local officers and the community.

 

Posted by: James

Posted in: Editorial

About the Author:

Five year veteran of the site. BlackBerry specialist, but experienced in most operating systems. Enjoys flower arranging and cross stitch.
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