What do the police need to use Big Data?

Police organisations, for their daily activity, generate, store and work with large amounts of data, within the field of Big Data. Unfortunately, they don’t always have the technology and techniques which provide an added value when acquiring it. This is one of the conclusions that Alexander Babuta came to in his report Big Data a police project. An assessment of the needs, expectations and priorities of British security forces, published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The author stresses that the investigation related to big data is prolific, but there is a lack of studies about its use in police work in the United Kingdom. Babuta tries to contribute to fill this gap. His research began with a review of the documentation (both academic and institutional), of police strategies and reports from the private sector on the use of data by the police. He then went on to interview 25 workers from four police agencies (involving police and support personnel) and 5 experts from technological and academic sectors. Finally, he directed a project team with representatives from five police forces, and from the Home Office, the College of Policing, and from the university environment.

The two big problems that the researcher identified are the lack of a single area to store and retrieve data, and the absence of technology to give meaning to the data. He also highlights four priorities where technology related to big data can be applied to police work:

  • Take advantage of maps to predict crime to send patrols to places where there is more probability of crime taking place.
  • Use predictive analysis to associate risks with particular persons, whether they are potential authors or possible victims.
  • Use advanced analysis to try to take advantage of the entire potential of visual recording systems (video surveillance systems) and of the data of automatic registration recognition systems.
  • Apply big data technology to open data resources, to obtain a better knowledge of some crime problems.

The author presents 14 recommendations for police forces and heads of security; for national organisms (Home Office, the National Police Academy and Police ICT Company[1]); for programme developers, including three lines of research.

Babuta’s proposals that may be more relevant to the field of social science are[2]:

  • Prioritize the exploration of the potential of the programming of prediction related maps
  • Use national data, not only local data, when there is a desire to predict risks related to individuals.
  • Include a register with all data applications to allow for the documentation of any change affecting the data as a whole.
  • Gain an insight into research into crime prediction programming to be able to generate models of prediction in accordance with street segments.
  • Explore potential uses of Risk Terrain Modelling (RTM)[3] to identify areas where there is a higher risk of crimes being committed.
  • Explore the use of damage assessment models to assess the damage caused due to different types of crime.

The report was presented to the public on 6 September 2017 and a presentation of this can be seen on the following link:


[1] It is a company with public capital created and administered by heads of security to improve information and communication technology with the objective of improving security for the general public.

[2] According to the network of researchers MethodSpace

[3] http://www.riskterrainmodeling.com


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