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Tension missed?

Current police intelligence practices could miss community tension and large scale criminality. That is according to the University of Cardiff’s Police Science Institute.

The Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) at Cardiff was asked to consider the intelligence processes in place within police forces before the August 2011 disorders in England by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). The Institute was also asked to propose options to enhance the Police Service’s capability to monitor environmental conditions in which public disorder and criminality might break out.

Their findings were outlined in the recent HMIC report The Rules of Engagement: A review of the August 2011 disorders. UPSI found that there is a potential for intelligence failure around anticipating public disorder of the type that occurred in August 2011 because of a lack of analysed information. However the Institute also concluded that it is not clear whether these events could have been predicted or pre-empted.

The work was led by the criminologist, Prof Martin Innes, Director of UPSI: “The information environment in which the police are working is developing rapidly thanks to the spread of social media technologies,” said Prof Innes.

“The processes and systems police use to collect and develop intelligence need to become quicker and more agile to cope with this new environment. Leading-edge research being conducted at the intersections between computer science and social science at Cardiff and other universities, does suggest some ways in which police could adapt. They will need to do this quickly though, as the global economic situation means it is likely there will be further outbreaks of large-scale disorder in the future,” he added.

Recommendations made by UPSI include the development of a systematic and structured approach to community engagement by neighbourhood policing teams to create a network of highly localised community information and intelligence sources who can be activated as required.
A key recommendation made by the Institute and supported by HMIC suggested the development of a ‘data-mining engine’ to scan publicly available social media for signal crimes, signal disorders and control signals which might be associated with changes in the intensity or scale of public reactions to crime, disorder and policing.
The full report is available – on this link.


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