As communities become more digitalised, the need for officers to interact with even greater volumes and more diverse forms of digital evidence is on the rise.
In the first two months of 2022, Hampshire Constabulary collected over 11,000 pieces of digital evidence from businesses and citizens. Stephanie Wilkins, Digital Evidence Management Support Coordinator, Hampshire Constabulary, estimates that each piece of evidence collected and processed typically consumes an hour of an officer’s time.
Collecting CCTV video requires an officer to travel to the business location, request a copy of the video, wait for it to be downloaded and copied, and then make the return trip back to the station, often to find that the proprietary video is not in a playable format.
Gathering evidence from citizens can be similarly problematic. For example, accessing evidence from a mobile phone would typically require an officer to confiscate the device for a period of time (hours or even days) in order to download evidence, something few citizens are eager to do.
Finally, sharing evidence with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) was a challenge too, especially when it involved complex files. “It was a constant source of frustration for officers who needed to manually upload individual images to NicheRMS, then compress into a template, because they could only send images that were less than one megabyte,” added Wilkins.
To address these challenges, Hampshire Constabulary, and other SERIP forces, have deployed the NICE Investigate Digital Evidence Management Solution.
Running on the secure Microsoft Azure Cloud and part of the Evidencentral suite, NICE Investigate is a one-stop solution for automating manual processes around the collection, management, analysis and sharing of all types of digital evidence.
Now, instead of traveling to sites to physically gather CCTV footage, officers collect it without leaving the office. Businesses register their cameras in NICE Investigate which geolocates them, along with their contact details. When a crime occurs, officers view camera locations on a map and send out an electronic request for the footage. The business simply uploads the files into NICE Investigate’s secure portal, where they are virus-checked, automatically converted to a playable format and deposited into an electronic case file for immediate viewing.
The Constabulary has also taken the lead in an initiative to encourage national retailers and independent stores to register their cameras, to make video more readily available to other forces across England and Wales. Wilkins explains: “By encouraging retailers to register their cameras it will help us and other forces better support the business community in their quest to prosecute organized and opportunistic crimes that are committed against them.” The process of soliciting evidence from citizens has also been greatly simplified.
With NICE Investigate, an officer can create and share a public appeal with the community in a matter of minutes. Appeal pages are created and published in the NICE Investigate Community Portal with a ‘Respond to the Appeal’ . The appeal can be posted on the force website, and links shared on social channels and the media. Officers are also able to send the link directly to individuals with whom they have met during their enquiries.
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