Accelerating Data Processing During Police Investigations

Published Nov-12-18

The development of digital tools to speed up the amount of time it takes law enforcement officials to process data during investigations.

The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, Netherlands

The Story:

Accelerating Data Processing During Police Investigations Police forces already have a variety of data tools to help them fight crime. They include YouTube videos, intercepted voice conversations, social media posts and the contents of computers.

Data analytics has been used since the 1990s and among the technologies is a program called the Domain Awareness System (DAS) that's used by police in New York. It allows officers to follow traffic patterns through thousands of CCTV cameras, read license plates and integrate data on suspects from a variety of databases. But as technology always marches on law enforcement bodies are being encouraged to come up with new and smarter ways to go into the data to search for clues.

With that in mind police and law enforcement personnel in Europe are turning to hackathons to come up with innovative solutions. “We are trying to get them to think like a few geeks in a garage,” said Seán Gaines from Vicomtech, an applied research center for visual interaction and communication technologies in San Sebastián, Spain.

Speed Up Intelligence Gathering

In May 2018, The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) organized a hackathon for tools that would speed up the time it takes to gather intelligence from data. At the moment it can take weeks or even months to process data from different file types on a one terabyte hard drive, even longer if the material is encrypted. Reducing the time it takes to process data could help to prevent crimes from taking place.

The hackathon took place in Soesterberg, The Netherlands with over 80 participants. It was deemed a success and although the tools devised were not perfect (in the organizer's words) that was not the aim at that point.

The intention was to produce tools that function rather than something that is perfect. The tools will be further developed at future hackathons and in line with police requirements.

Privacy Concerns

As the internet and digital technologies develop reams of personal data are being produced every second, especially with smartphones, smart watches and fitness trackers that carry information about movements and interactions with other people. Therefore, running alongside the development of data-based technologies are concerns over an individual’s privacy and balancing their rights with those of the police who may need access to vital personal data. It is a tricky and delicate issue.

Future Goals

The tools devised in the hackathons are still being worked on. It is hoped that they will be in a fit state for testing in field lab phases later in 2018 or early 2019.

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