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Geocoding app squares up to challenge of pinpointing poachers as well as people in distress

Forces hail the many benefits of location technology

Forces turning to a new app hailed as a double boon in saving lives and precious time for overstretched and under-resourced officers have found a third benefit for the “invaluable tool”.

Latest converts to the location technology – Suffolk Constabulary – believe it will also prove “extremely useful” in the fight against rural crime for reporting poaching incidents of hare coursing and night hawking.

Suffolk is one of the first forces nationally to fully integrate the geocoding system, giving its contact and control room and all frontline staff access.

The primary function of ‘what3words’ finds people in distress, who need assistance but may not know where they are, with pinpoint accuracy.

The app converts complex GPS coordinates and has effectively divided the globe into 3m x 3m squares. Each square has been given a unique three word address, which means anyone can refer to their exact location simply by using the three words.

Police call handlers can send a text including a link to the what3words browser site, and whoever has contacted can see their location, and read out the corresponding three words

Forces can then dispatch appropriate resources to the right place.

Suffolk Superintendent Matt Rose, explaining the benefits of the new technology, said: "It can often be difficult to describe exactly where help is needed but what3words overcomes this, allowing us to quickly identify and direct resources anywhere.

“For anyone with a smartphone, it’s free and easy to use.”

The app is already being utilised across force-wide but the rural team already sees this technology as an "invaluable tool” – assisting officers to find people in distress, even in the most remote locations.

Rural policing team Sergeant Brian Calver added: "By having such accurate information, it cuts out ambiguity, mistranslation of an area and allows us to get to exactly where we need to be.

"This app can also be extremely useful for reporting incidents such as hare coursing and other forms of poaching, as well as night hawking.

“All of these crimes are carried out in remote rural areas where there may be no landmarks or road names to link them to.”

what3words is free-to-use and is available as an app and on the developer’s website.

The technology has also been integrated into Suffolk’s computer aided dispatch system, which means the public can now share their three word address when contacting the police.

Suffolk's PCC Tim Passmore said: "This sounds like a very simple and effective solution to enable emergency services to locate a caller in an emergency when they are unsure where they are

"The remoteness of some areas of our county can cause some uncertainty when it comes to locating people so anything we can do to clarify an exact position is definitely worth adopting.

"I am very pleased that Suffolk is at the forefront of using this app and I would encourage everyone to consider downloading the what3words app as you never know when you might need it.”

what3words founder and CEO Chris Sheldrick added: “Describing where things are in the countryside can get really complicated.

“Growing up in rural Hertfordshire I often had to wait by a roadside to flag down vehicles that would otherwise sail past our farm entrance.

“It troubles me to think that if an emergency had happened, we would have struggled to tell emergency services where help was needed fast enough to avoid extensive damage or fatalities.

"It's incredible to see UK forces like Suffolk embrace technology to respond effectively and quickly to people in need.”

Other forces across the country are already reporting success stories.

In West Yorkshire, what3words has been used to pinpoint the location of serious road traffic collisions; Humberside Police found a vulnerable domestic abuse victim; while officers from Bedfordshire Police, along with colleagues from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, used the app to trace and rescue a woman who had slipped into waist-deep water. South Yorkshire described the technology as “fantastic” for “efficiently locating people who need our help”.

“This technology is a fantastic, additional tool that we can use to quickly and efficiently locate people who need our help.” 

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