An NPIA pilot to speed up the time taken for police to examine computers and mobile phones used by criminals, has resulted in five forces achieving a 90 per cent increase in computer devices examined, helping officers bring more offenders to justice quicker.
This examination process, known as eForensics (electronic forensics), often provides crucial evidence in serious investigations such as distributing indecent images of children via the internet, homicide and fraud.
As computer crime has increased and techniques have become more sophisticated, the demand on technology experts in force Hi-Tech Crime Units (HTCUs) to examine electronic devices has grown nationally by 300 per cent over the past seven years.
To help forces deal with this increasing demand, the NPIA developed a more efficient way for forces to manage the number of devices that need to be examined to help ensure police officers get the evidence they need as quickly as possible.
The current process for police officers to request an examination of a computer or mobile phone varies from force to force. The aim of the six-month pilot was to speed up the process for all forces by providing one standardised approach.
The agency assisted in establishing a process to help officers across the East Midlands with their requests. The pilot enabled police officers to contact one of the technology experts from the five force HTCUs involved in the pilot (Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire) to have their examination requests assessed before being sent to their force HTCU for investigation. Part of the process involved assessing how best to examine the device by prioritising against several factors including the threat posed by the offender, the seriousness of the crime and risk to the victim. This has resulted in standardised examinations, reviews and investigation across the region which has led to in an increase in performance and capacity.
As a result of the success of this model, the NPIA is working on making it available to all forces from next month. The NPIA recently held an event to inform all forces of the benefits achieved, lessons learned and how NPIA could support forces to implement the new products and processes.
Simon Bramble, head of Police Science and Forensics at the NPIA said: “The pilot has been a great success helping forces increase the amount of electronic devices examined and significantly reducing the time it takes to do this.
“This is another good example of how the NPIA works with the police service to deliver initiatives that provide more for less and help support frontline officers to protect our communities.”
ACPO lead on eForensics, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, said: “With the emergence of technology impacting on many crime types, the police service has recognised that all police forces were spending an increasing amount of time, money and staff on interrogating electronic devices and mobiles phones.
“This project has dramatically reduced the time taken over each device and has also made a massive impact into case loads.”
DCC East Midlands Peter Goodman, said:“The East Midlands is at the forefront of innovation. This is another example of how the five forces are working together to increase effectiveness and efficiency in order to maintain a quality police service in light of stringent budget cuts.
“We are determined to work with the NPIA to make this important investigation technique available to all forces to protect communities across the country.”