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Resources critical to app success, digital leads told

Resourcing reporting apps will be critical to their success, says the College of Policing.

Ensuring information reported via apps by the public is accessed and shared with other forces is vital, Chiefs have been advised.

The College of Policing backed the innovation drive but added 43 forces doing different things would be counter productive.

Rob Flanagan, Innovation and Knowledge Sharing Manager with the College of Policing, urged forces planning on releasing apps to think about how the public will use them – and their expectations of success.

“Information sharing across forces is a really, really important consideration,” he said. “If you look at PNC, for example, that works really well. What I doubt any force will do is create an app that will replicate that,” he told Police Oracle.

“The important thing in all of these things is that if you’re not careful, you end up with 43 apps doing 43 things.”

The other critical issue is ensuring forces resource the apps properly so that data and information from the public is accessed and quickly responded to.

Just in time for vehicle crime

The theft of Range Rovers is a significant issue across the country. Cloning technology makes this very easy. Offenders will then park the vehicle in a neighbouring borough to see if it has a tracker fitted.

During that time, if a resident spots the vehicle and uses the app to report it with an image and location, a vehicle that doesn’t have a tracker can be recovered. The data can also help identify thieves who are known to the location – or can later be linked by mobile phone data.

But if the report isn’t used, the public are less likely to use it again.

Best practice

Mr Flanagan said senior officers needed to think beyond being seen to be developing digital solutions.

He said: “If you think about innovation, it’s as a problem identifier. What’s the problem that you’re trying to solve or the challenges you’re trying to meet? It’s getting that perspective and working backwards.”

The College is backing the move by Cleveland Police which has just launched a tender to develop an app for the community to report issues and be made aware of issues of concern in their area.

The CoP has praised the force for running an open competition to get developers to present their ideas.

British Transport Police procurement officers are also looking for developers to create an app that will enable women and girls to report issues while they are travelling.

Sharing the information across force boundaries will be critical to its success.

And raising public awareness of an app and what it can do is another issue forces will have to tackle.

Police Scotland officers are using a human trafficking app as part of their work to combat modern slavery.

Assistant Chief Constable Judi Heaton, Police Scotland’s lead for Major Crime, Public Protection and Local Crime, said the public needed to report offences especially where it involves hidden crimes like exploitation.

She said: “Police, other enforcement agencies and partners cannot tackle this issue alone. We also need the public to work with us if we are to identify and help vulnerable individuals being exploited.”

Rob Flanagan advised: “An app is only as good as what it can deliver.”

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